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Politics & Policy

Biden, Newsom meet on AI in San Francisco before pricey Marin fundraiser

President Joe Biden speaks during a discussion on managing the risks of Artificial Intelligence during an event in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 20, 2023, as California Gov. Gavin Newsom listens. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) | Source: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Joe Biden met Tuesday with Gov. Gavin Newsom and a group of civil society and tech leaders in San Francisco to debate what he called the "risks and enormous promises" of artificial intelligence.  

Later Tuesday, Biden and Newsom were headed to Marin County for a fundraiser in Kentfield, where a $100,000 contribution entitled donors to a small, private reception with the president, plus photos and entry to the main event.

A $50,000 donation allowed donors to have a "brief conversation" with the president, plus a photo and entry to the main event. Contributors at those levels were also invited to an "hour-long private reception" with Newsom after Biden's departure. A limited number of tickets were available for $5,000 to $25,000.

The Marin Independent Journal reported Biden would be hosted by eight tech, climate and private equity entrepreneurs and investors, including Dan Kalafatas, chairman and co-founder of 3Degrees; Hadley Mullin, senior partner at TSG Consumer Partners; philanthropist Steve Silberstein; and Mark Robinson.

On artificial intelligence, the Biden administration is seeking to figure out how to regulate the emergent field, looking for ways to nurture its potential for economic growth and national security and protect against its potential dangers.

Among those attending Tuesday were civil society leaders who’ve been critical of big tech firms and social media.  

"We'll see more technological change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50 years," Biden said as the meeting kicked off.

"AI is already driving that change," Biden said.

The sudden emergence of AI chatbot ChatGPT and other tools has jumpstarted investment in the sector. AI tools are able to craft human-like text, music, images and computer code. This form of automation could increase the productivity of workers, but experts warn of numerous risks.

The technology could be used to replace workers, causing layoffs. It's already being deployed in false images and videos, becoming a vehicle of disinformation that could undermine democratic elections. Governments, as well as the European Union, have said they are determined to regulate and put brakes on AI before it is too late.

Biden said social media has already shown the harm technology can do "without the right safeguards in place."

In May, Biden's administration brought together tech CEOs at the White House to discuss these issues, with the Democratic president telling them, "What you're doing has enormous potential and enormous danger."

White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients' office is developing a set of actions the federal government can take over the coming weeks regarding AI, according to the White House. Top officials are meeting two to three times each week on this issue, in addition to the daily work of federal agencies. The administration wants commitments from private companies to address the possible risks from AI.

Those meeting with Biden and Newsom on Tuesday at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco included:

  • Tristan Harris, executive director of the Center for Human Technology;
  • Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media;
  • Joy Buolamwin, founder of the Algorithmic Justice League;
  • Arati Prabhakar, assistant to the president and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy;
  • Rob Reich, professor of political science at Stanford University
  • Oren Etzioni, former CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence;
  • Jennifer Doudna, professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley;
  • Fei-Fei Li, co-director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Institute
  • Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy

Biden has been on a multiple-day trip to the Bay Area that on Monday included a stop in Palo Alto to tout his record on the environment and climate change, plus fundraisers in Atherton and Los Gatos.