There's an unmistakable rumble that you feel before you see Marine One, the President's helicopter fleet, fly over the cityscape of San Francisco. It's a powerful echo bouncing off the city's picturesque hills adorned with Victorian homes, an echo that resonates just as strongly as the topic that brought President Joe Biden to our city: AI.
Like the distinct echo of the powerful helicopters, the subject of AI reverberates through the city, the tech world, and indeed, the entire globe. The political and tech worlds collided this week when President Biden called a meeting of AI experts to discuss the future of this game-changing technology.
The meeting, held this morning at the Fairmont hotel, was a gathering of luminaries from academia, advocacy groups, and the tech sector. Among them were Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology; Jim Steyer, the CEO of Common Sense Media; Joy Buolamwin, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League; Fei-Fei Li of Stanford's Human-Centered AI Institute; Arati Prabhakar, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and someone who is no stranger to our city, former mayor / now Governor, Gavin Newsom.
Biden's agenda in this visit was clear - to understand both the opportunities and the risks associated with AI, a technology that has already begun to impact every facet of our lives. "We'll see more technological change in the next 10 years than we have seen in the last 50 years," Biden said, emphasizing the rapid pace of development and innovation in the field of AI.
While the promise and hype of AI is immense - from increasing worker productivity to potentially solving immense challenges like disease and climate change - there are also significant risks. Misinformation, threats to jobs, and privacy violations are among the key issues that were on the table for discussion today. And the outcome of these discussions isn't just academic; it's about shaping the real actions that the federal government will take in the coming weeks.
The President's Chief of Staff, Jeff Zients, recently shared how the administration views the topic of AI: “It’s probably one of the top three issues at the White House and across the agencies right now.” “The regulatory process can be relatively slow. And here, we cannot afford to wait a year or two to figure out what makes sense.”
The regulatory challenge is complex, and the stakes are high. But as the echo of Marine One fades into the distance, the echoes of the conversations about AI continue to resonate. San Francisco, a city well known for its tech innovation, has once again found itself at the epicenter of a conversation that will shape our future.
Once the President returns to Washington, this city will return to its usual hum. But the dialogue about AI is far from over. The discussion they started will continue - in boardrooms, in research labs, and in policy debates. The reverberations of this crucial meeting may well be felt for years to come as we navigate the challenges and embrace the opportunities of AI.