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Risks of AI use in the spotlight, even as US sets out guidelines in harnessing its full potential

NEW YORK: As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) gains pace at various levels of the United States government, guidelines and safeguards are being introduced to harness the benefits while tackling the risks involved.

On Monday (Oct 30), US President Joe Biden issued a new executive order on AI.

“The Executive Order establishes new standards for AI safety and security, protects Americans’ privacy, advances equity and civil rights, stands up for consumers and workers, promotes innovation and competition, advances American leadership around the world, and more,” the White House said in a statement.

New York City had last month month unveiled a new action plan emphasising the responsible use of innovative AI technology, in what Mayor Eric Adams called “the first-of-its-kind for a major US city”.

However, Mr Adams is drawing criticism for his own use of AI, with campaign groups concerned about how it can be used to mislead would-be voters or spread misinformation.

COMMITMENT TO RESPONSIBLE AI USE

In an introductory note in the 51-page New York City AI Action Plan launched on Oct 16, Mr Adams called AI “one of the most impactful technological advances of our time”.

Harnessing AI could help improve services and processes across government, but comes with some associated risks, he said.

Through the action plan, “we are cementing our commitment to this emerging technology’s responsible use, and ensuring we are deploying the right tools in the right ways”, said Mr Adams.

2XL’s creators said it uses responsible AI software to keep children safe from the dangers of the internet.

However, multilingual bots have got New York officials into trouble, with Mayor Adams himself on the receiving end of criticism, after using the technology to robocall residents to promote hiring halls and events in languages he does not actually speak.

“People stop me on the street all the time and say ‘I didn’t know you speak Mandarin’,” he said at a recent press conference. “We are using different languages to speak directly to the diversity of New Yorkers.” 

MISLEADING USE OF AI

Mr Adam’s strategy has, however, been slammed by campaign groups, who accuse him of misleading the public.

Ms Sarah Roth, advocacy and communications associate at the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, told CNA: “We see this as a US$32,000 PR (public relations) stunt, not only to convince New Yorkers that Mayor Adams is multilingual, but also to give an image of responsible use of AI, which we don’t see New York as actually doing.”

Concerns have also arisen over the expansion of facial recognition and gun detection technology by law enforcement in the city.

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