Iowa A.I. Startup CEO shares pros and cons on Biden executive order

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“I think skepticism is warranted.” says Joseph Nelson, CEO of A.I company Roboflow regarding President Biden’s new executive order focused on artificial intelligence (AI). Nelson was quick to point out that while the objective of Biden’s order appears to have good intentions, regulators should use caution or they may inadvertently stifle innovation in multiple sectors like healthcare or the environment.

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Reaction to Biden’s AI Executive Order

Nelson expressed a cautious optimism about the order, stating that its intentions are “largely good” and aim to position the United States as a leader in AI. However, he also voiced concerns about the broad and undefined nature of the order, saying it’s “to be determined how much of this can truly be implemented and enforced.”

Nelson argued that regulation often favors incumbents over smaller companies, potentially stifling innovation. He pointed out that the order is “deliberately broad and generic,” allowing individual agencies to interpret and enforce it, which could lead to unintended consequences. Nelson emphasized that the devil is in the details, especially when it comes to fostering economic growth or responsible use of AI.

He also questioned the efficacy of regulating technology rather than specific use-cases. Nelson cited existing regulations that prevent discrimination in housing as an example, arguing that the focus should be on equitable outcomes rather than whether or not AI technology is used. He warned that the executive order’s broad language could unintentionally undermine the results it aims to foster, particularly in areas like healthcare, where regulatory burdens could prevent smaller companies from bringing innovative solutions to market.

Nelson concluded by stating that AI is “the most powerful technology of our lifetimes” and expressed concern that the executive order could limit the scope of its responsible development and exploration. He urged for a more nuanced approach that considers the early stage of AI and its potential to improve various aspects of human life, from healthcare to climate change.

Other concerns are reporting AI data to the Federal Government and losing AI companies to other countries. While we should take AI safety seriously, regulators should exercise caution to not stifle innovation. Nelson says we should ask a simple question when regulating AI “how do I wield this capability, not that the capability exists in itself.”

About Joseph Nelson

Joseph Nelson, CEO of Roboflow

Joseph is cofounder/CEO at Roboflow, which makes machine learning tools over 250,000 developers use to build better computer vision models and datasets, faster. Roboflow is backed by Y Combinator, Craft Ventures, Floodgate, the founders of OpenAI, among others. He previously cofounded/sold an NLP company that sorted the US Congress’s mail and worked at Facebook. Joseph learned to code writing programs for TI-84 calculators. He tweets from @josephofiowa.

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