The Biden administration has released a plan for federal investments in artificial intelligence (AI) that outlines several strategies the government needs to focus on; one of the objectives is to advance “equity” and counter “inequity” in society.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a National AI R&D Strategic Plan which outlines “key priorities and goals for federal investments in AI R&D,” according to a May 23 Fact Sheet from the White House. The plan (pdf) lays out nine strategic strategies, including making long-term investments in fundamental and “responsible” AI research; developing effective methods of human-AI collaboration; understanding and addressing the ethical, legal, and societal implications of AI; and ensuring the safety and security of AI systems.
Focus will also be on developing shared public datasets for AI development, evaluating AI systems through benchmarks, better understanding the needs of the national AI R&D workforce, expanding public-private partnerships to accelerate AI advancements, and establishing a coordinated and principled approach to international collaboration in AI research.
“This plan defines the major research challenges in AI to coordinate and focus federal R&D investments. It will ensure continued U.S. leadership in the development and use of trustworthy AI systems, prepare the current and future U.S. workforce for the integration of AI systems across all sectors, and coordinate ongoing AI activities across all federal agencies,” said the White House.
One of the plan objectives is to ensure that AI systems “promote equity.” The National AI R&D Strategic Plan insists that AI capabilities need to “advance equity rather than exacerbating inequity.”
“For example, if only wealthy hospitals can take advantage of AI systems, the benefits of these technologies will not be equitably distributed. Research to make beneficial AI accessible in historically underrepresented communities will help ensure that those in greatest need of these capabilities can use them,” the plan states.
The OSTP plan envisions the creation of a “national technical AI workforce.” It says that “illuminating the demographic disparities and gaps” in the AI workforce will allow HR professionals and policymakers to address these perceived disparities and “increase equity and diversity.”
Derived from Marxist teachings, equity is different from the concept of equality. In equality, everyone in a society is treated on an equal footing, and given the same level of treatment regardless of differences in race, religion, and other factors.
Equity, on the other hand, focuses on the forced redistribution of resources. In a socialist equitable scenario, privileges are distributed based on perceived imbalances.
Public Opinion of AI, Use of AI in Education
In addition to the National AI plan, the White House announced an OSTP attempt to collect public input on AI as well as a report by the U.S. Department of Education on using AI in education, both of which also push the equity narrative.
With regard to public input, OSTP is asking people questions related to “advancing equity and strengthening civil rights.”
“What are the opportunities for AI to enhance equity and how can these be fostered?” one question asks.
Another question seeks input on additional considerations needed “to assure that AI mitigates algorithmic discrimination, advances equal opportunity, and promotes positive outcomes for all,” especially when used in health and human services, in hiring and employment practices, and in transportation.
OSTP is also seeking public opinion about working with low and middle-income countries to make sure that AI’s potential harms do not “disproportionately fall” on global populations who have been “historically underserved.”
The Education Department report (pdf) insists that policies are “urgently needed” to “safeguard and advance equity, including providing for human checks and balances and limiting any AI systems and tools that undermine equity.”
“Whether an AI model exhibits algorithmic bias or is judged to be fair and trustworthy is critical as local school leaders make adoption decisions about using AI to achieve their equity goals,” the report states.
In a section titled “Questions worth asking about AI for teaching,” the report asked, “To what extent are teachers able to exercise voice and decision-making to improve equity, reduce bias, and increase cultural responsiveness in the use of AI-enabled tools and systems.”
AI Use Within Government
Back in February, Biden approved an executive order directing federal agencies to use AI to achieve “equity” objectives, a decision that attracted criticism.
In a Feb. 21 post on Twitter, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute Christopher Rufo said that Biden’s order to create a “DEI bureaucracy” contains a “special mandate for woke AI.” DEI stands for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“Biden is not a moderate. This is a legal sprint to inject as much radical ideology as broadly and as deeply as possible in our government. This cannot be allowed. If Republicans take office, they must fully root out all of this ideological and social cancer,” evolutionary biologist Colin Wright, a founding editor of pro-free speech publication Reality’s Last Stand, said in a Feb. 21 Twitter post.
Multiple federal agencies are already using AI for various tasks. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is using artificial intelligence to collect information from social media activity. The AI tool allows CBP to screen travelers, including American citizens, people who are seeking asylum, and refugees.
In April, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said that it intends to form a task force exploring the use of AI to advance “critical homeland security missions.”