The White House aims to spearhead the international effort in exploring the potential and dangers of emerging technologies such as AI.
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According to a White House adviser, it is crucial for American leadership to create standards and regulations that will help us harness the potential benefits and navigate the risks of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and digital platforms that connect billions of people globally.
The Biden administration has introduced several measures regarding this issue – most recently, an executive order that seeks to establish new standards for the safety and security of AI. This order requires collaboration with private developers and other nations, as Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology at the National Security Council, explains that attackers may be located in one country, while the infrastructure and victims are global.
Neuberger sat down with VOA White House Correspondent Anita Powell to explain these complex, compelling technologies and how she thinks they have exposed the worst but also the best in humanity.
The text has been edited for brevity and to make it easier to understand.
I appreciate you taking the time to meet with VOA today. Can you explain the specific results of the recent discussion between President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the fields of cybersecurity, AI, and the digital economy?
Anne Neuberger, the deputy national security adviser for the White House, emphasized the crucial role that strategic technologies play in the growth and security of both our countries. She also highlighted how both countries are influential players on a global scale. The key takeaway from the discussion was the agreement between two leaders that, while there is competition, there is also a commitment to collaborate in areas such as climate change and establishing regulations for artificial intelligence.
Did the meeting make any advancements, particularly regarding regulating AI?
Neuberger: There were fruitful discussions regarding the establishment of a working group on AI to develop appropriate safety measures and guidelines for countries.
” I will continue to focus on AI and the recent actions of the administration, such as the AI Bill of Rights and efforts to establish norms at the London summit on AI. Why does the administration place such importance on U.S. leadership in this realm?”
Neuberger: There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the United States is a devoted democracy and AI is a significant technology that brings both opportunities and risks. It is our responsibility to find ways to utilize the opportunities while also overseeing the potential dangers. President Biden has emphasized this in his groundbreaking executive order, stating that as a nation, we must address the risks in order to fully benefit from the potential of AI.
Regarding the dangers of AI, what steps is the government taking to stop the harmful application of generative AI in both disputes and competitions? I’m referring to conflicts such as Israel and Ukraine, as well as competitions like the upcoming elections in Congo, Taiwan, and the United States.
Neuberger: We have observed new AI models that produce highly realistic videos and images. In regards to generative AI in relation to elections, I want to highlight one of the voluntary agreements negotiated by the president, which involves watermarking: placing a visible or potentially invisible mark on AI-generated images or videos to indicate that they are not real. An invisible mark can be used so that even if someone tries to remove it, the platforms can still show that the content is AI-generated and help educate viewers. This technology is constantly evolving and improving. However, companies have committed to start marking the content they produce. Additionally, several social media platforms have made commitments to inform consumers about content generated by artificial intelligence.
How is the administration addressing cybersecurity and the actions of hostile countries such as North Korea and Russia?
Neuberger explains that North Korea has turned to cyberattacks as a means of obtaining funds due to their strict economic sanctions. They have shifted their focus from targeting banks to attacking cryptocurrency infrastructure globally. The White House has taken steps to combat this, including designations from the Treasury Department.
More titles will be introduced for the mixers of cryptocurrency that clean illegally obtained funds from cryptocurrency systems. We have also been collaborating with the industry to urge them to enhance the security of their systems, along with working with law enforcement. The United States law enforcement has been partnering with global allies to dismantle the server infrastructure and detain those responsible for these actions.
Can you provide more information about the counter-ransomware project that you are currently involved in?
Neuberger: Absolutely. In essence, various criminal organizations, many of which are located in Russia and have infrastructure operating from different parts of the world, are exploiting systems by locking them and demanding payment from the owners as ransom. In the past two years alone, $2.3 billion has been paid in ransom in the United States. This is a global issue that requires a coordinated effort. We have brought together 48 countries, Interpol, and the European Union to tackle this problem collectively, as we are aware that the attackers are located in one country, the infrastructure in another, and the victims are spread worldwide. As this initiative was created by the White House, we have ensured that the leadership is diverse.
For instance, Nigeria and Germany are leading the initiative to strengthen global capabilities. This intentional pairing of an African and European country recognizes the unique needs of each region. Our goal is to assist countries in developing their ability to combat this issue while being mindful of the varying needs of nations such as Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Indonesia. Additionally, there is a specific focus on collaborating and exchanging information among participating parties.
You inquired about the main outcomes of our latest meeting. I will highlight three major ones. Firstly, we successfully launched a website and a platform for countries to cooperate in combating ransomware attacks. This allows them to seek assistance or gain insights from those who have faced similar attacks. Secondly, we released a groundbreaking joint policy statement where 48 countries pledged not to pay ransoms, recognizing that this issue is largely financially driven. And thirdly, the United States promised to share information on illicit wallets used by criminals to transfer funds globally, enabling other countries to prevent the movement of such money. These are just three examples of the numerous commitments made during the meeting.
The subject of discussion is the Global South, a region known for leading the way in developing fascinating digital economic technologies such as Kenya’s M-PESA, which was introduced around 2007. Currently, the U.S. has a similar platform called Venmo, which was based on its predecessor. How is the U.S. gaining knowledge from the developing world in regards to these projects and the potential risks associated with them?
Neuberger: M-PESA is a fantastic example of the promise of digital tech. Essentially, Kenya took the fact that they had a telecom infrastructure, and built their banking infrastructure riding on that, so they leapt ahead to enable people across the country to do transactions online. When you look at Ukraine in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukraine quickly moved their government online, really building on lessons learned from Estonia, to enable Ukrainians — many who are in Poland and Hungary — to continue to engage with their government in a digital way.
The U.S. Agency for International Development takes great pride in the success of our Ukrainian project and is using it as a guide for future endeavors in other countries. We are gaining valuable insights from the project’s creativity and innovation, which we hope to combine with American development, expertise, and assistance. Additionally, we plan to involve American technology companies to speed up the implementation of similar projects in other countries, as we continue to see the potential of digital advancements. However, as you noted, there are risks involved, which is why cybersecurity is crucial.
VOA: This prepares us well for my last inquiry, regarding the potential and dangers. In the realm of technology, individuals can conceal their identities and engage in hurtful behavior using tools meant to better society. How do you maintain your belief in humanity?
Neuberger: This is an extremely significant question that holds personal significance for me. My great-grandparents perished in Nazi death camps and my surviving family members either endured the horrors of the camps or went into hiding with false identities. The advancement of digital technology has made our identities more visible, and it often makes me wonder how I would protect myself if a similar situation arose. Therefore, it is crucial that we prioritize the protection of vulnerable communities as we interact with these technologies.
The president is collaborating with AI businesses to assert that companies are responsible for safeguarding marginalized communities on the internet. This includes utilizing AI to identify instances of cyberbullying and hate speech that goes against societal norms, as well as removing AI-generated images of vulnerable individuals such as children and women. Additionally, law enforcement partnerships globally will be utilized to discourage these harmful actions. While freedom of speech is important in free societies, we must also work together to combat harm.
I appreciate you taking the time to address our audience.
Neuberger: Thank you.