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Mid-Morning Art Thread | Main | James Biden To Testify in Joe Biden's Impeachment Inquiry
February 21, 2024

Wednesday Morning Rant


We Need a two three Programs
Ah, hell, just throw the kitchen sink at it

There is a magic combination when it comes to generating large numbers of government programs quickly. To truly maximize the number of programs and ensure that the programs directly overlap (and directly compete) while also being mutually contradictory, expensive and an odd combination of both ineffective and oppressive, you need a catalyst. The best catalysts have a number of similar elements:

  • High-tech
  • New/Buzzworthy
  • High-risk
  • Promise general applicability/infinite variability
  • Disruptive
  • Investment bubble
  • External competitors to enable "rally 'round the flag" national pride considerations

AI hits all the top marks. It's high-tech, consumes a lot of press, investors can't quit hurling money at it, various nation-state actors are involved, it's spooky and dangerous while also being powerful with some genuine uses, and the promise of power multiplication for the AI "winner" all make it an ideal candidate for lots and lots of government programs. And those programs are coming hot and heavy.

In the executive, AI is all over the place. The talented and competent go-getter Vice President who is always positioned for success and never fails at any endeavor she undertakes is the "AI Czar." This makes sense, as her speeches will present a marked increase in quality once the system comes online. But this wasn't done in a vacuum - she will be managing the new EO Biden's auto-pen signed to pursue "Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Artificial Intelligence."

With such gems as

  • Provide clear guidance to landlords, Federal benefits programs, and federal contractors to keep AI algorithms from being used to exacerbate discrimination.
  • ...
  • Ensure fairness throughout the criminal justice system by developing best practices on the use of AI in sentencing, parole and probation, pretrial release and detention, risk assessments, surveillance, crime forecasting and predictive policing, and forensic analysis.
and deep ironies like
  • Protect against the risks of using AI to engineer dangerous biological materials by developing strong new standards for biological synthesis screening. Agencies that fund life-science projects will establish these standards as a condition of federal funding, creating powerful incentives to ensure appropriate screening and manage risks potentially made worse by AI.
well, I just can't wait for the results! The only upside to all this is that most things they do fail.

But it isn't just the Oval Office getting involved. This is sexy and dangerous and powerful. Just as the girl goes weak in the knees for the leather-clad motorcycle bad boy in countless movies, Congress is putting on its short skirt, slathering on the makeup and donning a plunging top to try to catch AI's attention. Yesterday, the House announced its new "Task Force on Artificial Intelligence." Don't worry that it will just be a waste of money that will hurt average Americans if it somehow succeeds, though. That is guarded against because it is, of course, bipartisan! This new Task Force has something of a dual mandate. Like the Oval Office's programs, it seeks to put "guardrails" around AI but also to ensure American AI leadership against global competitors:

Led by Rep. Jay Obernolte (R-Ca.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Ca.), the task force will bring together a bipartisan group of Members who have AI expertise and represent the relevant committees of jurisdiction. As we look to the future, Congress must continue to encourage innovation and maintain our country's competitive edge, protect our national security, and carefully consider what guardrails may be needed to ensure the development of safe and trustworthy technology.
Like the Fed's "dual mandate of stable prices and full employment," this is, of course, impossible. That won't, however, stop them from trying.

And, of course, the real government of the United States - that is, the agencies - are not resting on their laurels. Some of these agency initiatives - like HUD's - are to comply with the new EO and go put the president's stroke of the (auto) pen into practice, but not all. DHS' AI program "plays a critical role in ensuring artificial intelligence (AI) safety and security nationwide." The USDA has established a network of "AI institutes" for agricultural AI research and practices.

Not content to let the feds have all the fun - and rake off all the money - the states are getting in on the action. In her recent State of the State address, New York's governor Hochul announced that the state is pulling together around half a billion dollars to create "Empire AI" to "promote responsible research and AI opportunities focused on public good." California's Newsom decided not to wait for the feds, issuing his own AI executive order a couple of months before Biden's auto-pen got around to it.

This all, of course, barely scratches the surface. We are in the opening stages of a new era of government program bloat. Nobody can get enough of AI. Whether it works or not, whether its good or evil, effective or ineffective, it sure will permit an exciting new growth of administrative and legislative empires. It will also allow the new programs - and their leaders - to hoover up cash through many exciting new graft opportunities. If they get lucky, it will also enable them to do general-purpose evil more effectively and create many new venues for the generation of folderol and legerdemain.

At the end of the day, isn't that what really matters?

digg this
posted by Joe Mannix at 11:00 AM

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