California is diving headfirst into the world of artificial intelligence, specifically generative AI. Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order back in September, requiring state agencies to assess the risks and potential impacts of AI on their work, the economy, and energy usage. Amy Tong, secretary of the California Government Operations Agency, is leading the charge on developing recommendations for policies and regulations to ensure responsible AI usage. But Tong prefers to call it a collective effort, involving public and private entities coming together to implement generative AI.
The main focus of the team is figuring out how California can use generative AI to enhance the customer experience for residents receiving public services. As the most populous state in the U.S. with the fifth largest economy in the world, California is setting the pace for other states in establishing AI standards in government operations.
Liana Bailey-Crimmins, California’s Chief Information Officer, is also part of the team and is spearheading the publication of procurement guidelines for generative AI. They plan to create a “sandbox” environment for agencies to test new technologies in a controlled setting. This rigorous process ensures that the chosen technologies are the right fit and truly benefit the state.
Generative AI tools are built on deep-learning models that can generate text, images, and other content that appears human-created. This rapidly advancing technology poses both benefits and risks, and the challenge for California is striking a balance between leveraging its advantages and understanding the potential risks. The upcoming report needs to be thorough and comprehensive to safeguard public services and ensure successful technology adoption.
Tong and her team will recommend pilot programs to test the efficacy of generative AI, focusing on procurement guidelines and staff training to ensure that the government workforce is not left behind. They believe in taking the middle ground and conducting pilot programs to assess the impact and mitigate risks.
Transparency is crucial when implementing a technology like generative AI, which can disrupt how government services are offered. Tong and Bailey-Crimmins emphasize the importance of transparency and maintaining the trust of residents.
The state will also consider new cybersecurity risks associated with generative AI. From a security perspective, generative AI brings both traditional AI risks and potentially new and amplified risks. It is essential to have the right terms and conditions in place to hold vendors accountable and build trust with the public.
Newsom’s executive order sets deadlines for various tasks, including reports, employee trainings, and pilot programs, extending until January 2025. Despite the urgency surrounding generative AI implementation, Bailey-Crimmins is not concerned about the timeline. It’s about showing the vision and direction, even if it takes two years or six months to get there. California is clear on where it’s going with generative AI.