Biden's former boss is worried about AI, too.

Phone a Friend

It turns out that former President Barack Obama had a heavy hand in crafting current President Joe Biden's AI agenda.

On Monday, Biden announced a sweeping — though resoundingly vague — executive order on AI, a much-anticipated document delineating the current administration's top AI concerns. And as NBC reports, he phoned one very famous friend to make that order happen: Obama, who according to the network is deeply concerned about the tech and its potential impacts.

Per NBC, aides for both Biden and Obama say that AI keeps both the current and former president "up at night," and by Biden's reported request, the current president's one-time boss is said to have spent the last five months "quietly" meeting with White House officials, convening Zoom conferences with various top aides and speaking with leaders in the tech world.

Obama "helped really set the frame of mind that companies can innovate while also being responsible," White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients told NBC, "and that companies need to be accountable."

Do Overs

It's a notable contribution from Obama, considering his complicated tech legacy.

The former president, who helmed the nation during the onset of social media and the digital world's Web2 transformation, embraced tech in his presidential campaigns, as well as during his eight-year tenure in the Oval Office. But while some laud him as a driver of innovation who appreciated tech as a means of expediting progress, he's also garnered wide criticism for his perceived failure to regulate Silicon Valley and the giants within it at a time when these companies weren't quite so powerful and regulation might have been more possible.

Indeed, Obama touched on that regulatory failure this week in a Medium post, published after Biden's executive order was issued.

"When social media was on the rise, most decisions were made by a small group of people with almost no oversight," reads the statement. "Those people created platforms that helped us connect in new and exciting ways, but they also failed to anticipate the harm their tools could do. By the time it became clear, much of the damage had already been done."

"We can't make the same mistake again," the noted Medium author added. "The stakes are too high."

That's all fair. But again, it's important to remember that the Biden administration's order is mostly a promised framework for addressing AI and its implications, offering little in the way of firm regulation or timelines for the execution of its various promises. Like Zients told NBC, accountability is important — for AI companies, yes, but for the government, too.

More on Biden's AI order: Joe Biden's Executive Order on AI Is Expansive, But Vague

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