Justice Department Appoints Jonathan Mayer Chief AI Officer

Jonathan Mayer has been named the Justice Department’s first chief science and technology advisor and will also hold the title chief artificial intelligence officer, another first. The announcement was made by Attorney General Merrick Garland, who said “the Justice Department must keep pace with rapidly evolving scientific and technological developments in order to fulfill our mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe, and protect civil rights.” Mayer will advise Garland and department leaders and collaborate with other departments “on complex issues requiring technical expertise,” including cybersecurity, AI and other areas of emerging technology.

The Wall Street Journal describes Mayer as “a computer scientist and lawyer,” and says he will “also lead the department’s technological capacity-building efforts, such as advising on technical talent recruitment.”

Mayer was recruited by Justice from Princeton University, where he has been working as an assistant professor in the computer science department and at the university’s School of Public and International Affairs, according to WSJ, which reports he “has worked in similar technology policy advising roles, including at the California Department of Justice and in Vice President Kamala Harris’s office between 2017 and 2018, when she served as a U.S. senator.”

“The Justice Department is the latest government agency to start its AI hiring surge,” following the Department of Homeland Security, which earlier this month “announced a ‘hiring sprint’ to acquire 50 AI experts this year,” writes Fast Company, noting President Biden’s October executive order on “safe, secure, and trustworthy” AI “urged government agencies to ‘accelerate the rapid hiring of AI professionals as part of a government-wide AI talent surge.’”

Mayer will serve in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy, which is developing a team of technical and policy experts in technology-related areas important to the Department’s responsibilities, Garland’s announcement states. The new CAIO holds a PhD in computer science from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School.

“The creation of an AI chief at the Justice Department comes as advances in artificial intelligence have given rise to new legal and safety questions and as more governments look to rein in the disruptive yet rapidly growing technology,” WSJ writes, citing the Biden EO and subsequent hiring binge as the administration’s effort “to assert more oversight over powerful new AI systems.”

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