Governor Gavin Newsom signed an Executive Order on Wednesday, instructing state agencies to look into possible threats that artificial intelligence (AI) can mount against California residents, as well as begin to lay groundwork for AI and generative AI (GenAI) usage in the future.
In his Executive Order, Newsom noted that despite the recent tech downturn in Silicon Valley, the state remains the leader in AI technology. Specifically, he noted that 35 of the world’s top 50 AI companies and a quarter of all AI patents, conference papers, and companies are in California. With AI and GenAI rapidly becoming emerging tech sectors in the past few years, and many states recently looking at how to safely utilize such technology, Newsom decided that to test the waters on AI usage.
Newsom specifically highlighted the need to “ethically and responsibly” deploy GenAI throughout state government in his order. In addition, Newsom stressed that the order “would protect and prepare for potential harms” as well as keep the state the “world’s AI leader.”
“This is a potentially transformative technology – comparable to the advent of the internet – and we’re only scratching the surface of understanding what GenAI is capable of,” the Governor said in a statement. “We recognize both the potential benefits and risks these tools enable. We’re neither frozen by the fears nor hypnotized by the upside. We’re taking a clear-eyed, humble approach to this world-changing technology. Asking questions. Seeking answers from experts. Focused on shaping the future of ethical, transparent, and trustworthy AI. Doing what California always does – leading the world in technological progress.”
Provisions of the Executive Order
According to the Governor’s office, the order includes the following provisions:
Risk-Analysis Report: Direct state agencies and departments to perform a joint risk-analysis of potential threats to and vulnerabilities of California’s critical energy infrastructure by the use of GenAI.
Procurement Blueprint: To support a safe, ethical, and responsible innovation ecosystem inside state government, agencies will issue general guidelines for public sector procurement, uses, and required training for application of GenAI – building on the White House’s Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights and the National Institute for Science and Technology’s AI Risk Management Framework. State agencies and departments will consider procurement and enterprise use opportunities where GenAI can improve the efficiency, effectiveness, accessibility, and equity of government operations.
Beneficial Uses of GenAI Report: Direct state agencies and departments to develop a report examining the most significant and beneficial uses of GenAI in the state. The report will also explain the potential harms and risks for communities, government, and state government workers.
Deployment and Analysis Framework: Develop guidelines for agencies and departments to analyze the impact that adopting GenAI tools may have on vulnerable communities. The state will establish the infrastructure needed to conduct pilots of GenAI projects, including California Department of Technology approved environments to test such projects.
State Employee Training: To support California’s state government workforce and prepare for the next generation of skills needed to thrive in the GenAI economy, agencies will provide trainings for state government workers to use state-approved GenAI to achieve equitable outcomes, and will establish criteria to evaluate the impact of GenAI to the state government workforce.
GenAI Partnership and Symposium: Establish a formal partnership with the University of California, Berkeley and Stanford University to consider and evaluate the impacts of GenAI on California and what efforts the state should undertake to advance its leadership in this industry. The state and the institutions will develop and host a joint summit in 2024 to engage in meaningful discussions about the impacts of GenAI on California and its workforce.
Legislative Engagement: Engage with Legislative partners and key stakeholders in a formal process to develop policy recommendations for responsible use of AI, including any guidelines, criteria, reports, and/or training.
Evaluate Impacts of AI on an Ongoing Basis: Periodically evaluate for potential impact of GenAI on regulatory issues under the respective agency, department, or board’s authority and recommend necessary updates as a result of this evolving technology.
Both tech and political experts told the the Globe on Wednesday that the new order actually does not add much to what is already in development or has been in the works in California, or in different agencies.
How much the new order actually does
“AI has really been developing lightning fast,” said William Kapoor, a Bay Area researcher on technology use in government and politics. “But you know what has been faster? Lawmakers being really nervous about it and doing everything they can to put the brakes on it and actually look into it before it is used even more in many areas. I mean, look at what the public and media outcry against it has been like. Of course a lot of people are going to call on it being slowed down and reviewed. There are a lot of potential dangers in it, and not all the kinks have been worked out yet.”
“This has been ongoing for sometime. You have a state agency wanting to use it to save on costs or to be more efficient or to expand, but the people in charge also know that AI is now a very political thing and that you cannot just rubber stamp it being used on something big without a proper check on it.
“So for this Executive Order, you need to read between the lines here to see what this is really about. Look at how many times it mentions that California is an AI leader or that universities in California are leading the way in it. Then he says how much AI is needed but also how it needs guardrails. He even has a caveat in the order saying that he is signing the order because the ‘development of GenAI will necessitate united governance on issues of consumer data, financial services, healthcare, and innumerable other areas critical to our society, and my administration looks forward to engaging with the Legislature in furtherance of this aim.’ I mean, he’s not hiding it.”
“Very basically, he’s saying just how awesome California is with AI development and how much it is needed, but it needs to be watched closely as it is rolled out more for state usage and greater expansion through the Legislature. Tech writing and Government documents tend to make a lot of people’s brains start to melt around a few pages in, but sift through it, and you can see the big picture.”
Meghan Lewis, an LA-based tech consultant to businesses, added, “AI can do a lot of things. It can lead to new medical breakthroughs and help technology advance even quicker. On the fun side, you can use AI to create songs, so you can have deceased singers like Frank Sinatra sing covers of modern songs and things like that. But then you have a lot of negatives too. Many people are worried that AI could progress to the state where it becomes self aware or starts making drastic decisions on its own. There is also a host of privacy concerns and worries over AI replacing a lot of people. I mean, even [SAG-AFTRA] is striking now in part due to those worries.”
“This Executive Order from the Governor. He is basically just saying that AI needs to be watched, but we’ll be slowly rolling this to be more efficient (re: save money). It will be watched, but it will expand. Oh, and we want AI companies to stay in California and stay the best because a lot of other things aren’t going their way in Silicon Valley right now. A lot of what he is saying is either already being done or was likely to happen anyway soon enough. He just put all that under an Executive Order.”
Executive Order N-12-23 went into effect after the signing on Wednesday morning.
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