How on earth can we teach computers about equity? Apparently it’s included in a new executive order on Artificial Intelligence from Governor Shapiro

September 21 – PA Governor Josh Shapiro signed an executive order concerning artificial intelligence yesterday at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 

As part of the executive order, an Artificial Intelligence governing board of senior administrative officials will meet weekly beginning next week. The group will work to keep up-to-date with AI and maintain safety for Pennsylvanians. 

State agencies will be handed guidelines and principles concerning AI that consist of 10 core values, including equity and fairness.

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “This is so unbelievably wrong. We are becoming a theocracy, folks, and the fact that it’s being forced on us through AI is horrifying.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM suggested, “How about you fix the airport? How about you fix Philadelphia? How about you fix 81?” 

A number of authors are particularly struggling with AI.  

Michelle Pollino of Fox News said, “Several famous authors are taking on artificial intelligence programmers in a legal battle for their work claiming in documents filed in New York Federal Court that AI programs are massive commercial enterprises that are reliant upon systemic theft on a mass scale. The lawsuit was organized by the Authors Guild, which includes John Grisham and George RR Martin. Its CEO Mary Ratzenberger, in his statement said it’s imperative that we stop this theft in its tracks or we will destroy our incredible literary culture. In August Open AI, the makers of Chat GPT, asked a federal judge to dismiss a Sarah Silverman lawsuit claiming exceptions, like fair use, that leave room for innovations.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll pointed out, “We should say this is not Governor Shapiro’s original idea. There are other states that have done exact executive orders or legislation, including California recently, and no doubt he’s looking at those things saying he wants to copy it here. It’s not 100 percent clear to me how AI is implemented across the state government. If you look at the press release, they’re talking about using it to make operations more efficient, maybe it would be used in HR operations when it comes to reviewing documents, for example that humans would not otherwise do. But it is such a new technology that even the experts acknowledge and there’s a lot of flaws with it too. That’s the other thing. You need to be careful how this is being utilized. It remains to be seen how big of a presence this will have.”

One major question is would AI replace humans in the Commonwealth? 

Barkdoll continued, “Or is it supplementing what they already do? That was not addressed in the press release. Some of these other states that have done it, they’re touting the long term benefits, saying this will be more cost effective, because it’s replacing humans that would be doing the work now that the AI technology is doing. I wouldn’t think that would sit well with the state workers unions either. So, a lot of questions about what this looks like.”

Jansen said, “I’m worried. You don’t put a value system on AI. I do understand that there’s things that maybe the government has to address because this technology is coming. It’s already here. It’s developing fast, and that’s what happens. We get these things and they happen so fast that then there’s unintended negative consequences. So I applaud them for trying to look at the negative consequences, but you don’t put a value system like equity in there, which is not the same thing as equality. If you’re putting that into AI, you are putting a specific value system that a lot of people don’t necessarily agree with or see lots of unintended negative consequences of. I really object to them putting a value system on it that isn’t the government’s role.”

The author’s case is a bit troubling because of how AI is already presenting information as facts.  

Barkdoll explained, “What they are saying is that literary works, take a John Grisham novel, that novel is just being downloaded carte blanche verbatim onto the AI platforms and then the AI platform is using that information to generate answers or generate new writings that people may request. I think these authors have a valid argument here. But again, you translate that to the use in say, a state government, you need to be careful because there’s a lot of inaccurate information that these things can generate. We also know that there’s just a lot of flaws in the way the systems operate. Shapiro said there’s going to be some kind of an AI oversight board that would presumably be watching those kinds of things, but this is going to be a difficult task.”

Jansen said, “We are not supposed to be a theocratic type of government, a government that enforces a worldview philosophy, ideology or religion on its members of the society. He’s doing that. He is putting equity and we’re going to create an equitable and just Pennsylvania through our AI. Well equity has a lot of ideology behind it. That word does not mean equality. It means deciding winners and losers based on historic harms and pushing certain people to get more and other people to get less based on that world point of view of equity. That is not constitutional. The LGBTQ affairs have new members, and they’re going to do lots of research to figure out what we need to do to promote. I’m sorry, are we going to have a Tea Party Affairs Commissioner? Are we going to have a Christian Nationalist Affairs Commission in Pennsylvania and figure out how those groups should be supported and given special attention? Because LGBTQ is not a community. It’s a philosophy. I keep seeing this over and over.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman said, “It sounds like you’re giving artificial intelligence, you’re essentially giving computers, you’re instructing them to be more equitable. That’s what it sounds like to me, correct?”

“Yes,” Jansen confirmed.

Kauffman said, “That’s scary. If you’re talking about artificial intelligence and trying to have them determine diversity, equity and inclusion, I’m sorry, that terrifies me. It just makes no sense how we can make that work in a democratic society.”

Jansen said, “It’s if you believe we live in a systemically racist country that was founded on slavery and let’s be clear, that is what the equitable philosophy and way of looking at our country is all about. I know people try to say oh no, it just means being equal. Then use the word equal. There’s a reason you’re using the word equity and equitable and empowering people. There’s this intersectionality now that’s officially allowed to be ignored and that’s white, male, straight Christian people would be at the bottom of the rung in terms of how they need to be pushed to the side and other people need to be centered. You can have these persuasions in society and try to get private companies and other groups to pay attention if you think this is the right thing to do. You may not use the government to implement this on all people, based on this world viewpoint. It has to be challenged by lawsuits. I can’t see any other way to do it.” 

Kauffman agreed, “That is really where it goes when it comes to executive orders. The lawsuits, including the one recently with automatic voter registration with driver’s licenses, have to be challenged in the courts. There are real constitutional issues regarding that. We have to be on the front lines in challenging it.”