A top Federal technology official said on May 1 that the Biden administration is “very active” in the realm of artificial intelligence (AI) regulation, and that we should expect to continue to see work coming from the White House in this area.

“This is a very active area. It’s taking a lot of my time and I’m working closely with a lot of my senior colleagues,” Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Director Arati Prabhakar said during the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday. “It’s an intense area of focus, and you’ll continue to see work that we’ve done.”

“Artificial intelligence is a big, broad topic,” Prabhakar said. “It’s already in our lives today.”

“It’s burst into the public consciousness in a really powerful way and because of its breadth and the pace at which it’s moving I think it’s easy to see that it’s the most powerful technology of our time,” she said. “What we know about powerful technologies through all of human history is that they will be used for good, and they will be used for ill. The job for all of us is to make sure we manage that transition and make sure that it comes out in a way that advances our future.”

“Our North star and all the work that we’re doing across the government dealing with this amazing, new technology is to understand that to seize its benefits we have to start by managing its risks,” Prabhakar said.

She continued, adding, “Some very important pieces are happening. Our work at the White House and working with our colleagues across government is really the bigger question of a comprehensive and cohesive approach to policy that will allow us to get the kind of governance over AI that we need to make this whole story come out right.”

Prabhakar – who joined OSTP in October – said that government agencies and industry alike need to leverage the White House’s most recent AI Bill of Rights.

The document outlines the Biden administration’s vision for how all organizations can build or deploy automated systems that are rooted in democratic values and protect civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy.

AI has “now burst into the public consciousness, but we all know AI has been part of our lives – has seeped in over many, many years,” Prabhakar said. “The Biden-Harris Administration published a Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights back in October.”

“AI is already in our world, and we knew that it was moving in a very rapid clip. And I want to just foot stomp why I think this is so important, because especially when technology this powerful and this fast moving is breaking over society there’s no more important time to be clear about your values, and that’s what this document really does.” she continued. “It talks about the importance of safety and of civil rights and privacy and I think it really gives us a bedrock to stand on while we turn those ideas now into practical policies.”

The OSTP head reiterated that AI “applications are vast, and I think as we run to embrace those, how we do it is critically important and that’s why we have to bake in a responsible approach.”

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.