Memo: Thursday's Debate and "Scary AI"

Jason Green-Lowe
June 25, 2024

If there’s one thing this year’s Presidential candidates agree on, artificial intelligence is scary.

As Donald Trump put it in a February 2024 interview with Fox Business, “And the other thing that I think is maybe the most dangerous thing out there of anything, because there’s no real solution — the AI, as they call it. It is so scary…something has to be done about this, and it has to be done fast.”

Or, as Trump reiterated in a podcast with Logan Paul last week, “It is very disconcerting. I said, you know, you use the word alarming: it is alarming! When I saw a picture of me promoting a product, and I could not tell – the voice was perfect, the lips moved perfectly with every word, the way you couldn't…if you were a lip reader, you'd say it's absolutely perfect and that's scary.”

Trump went on to point out that a truly convincing deepfake could easily lead to nuclear war. As he argued, if a video shows a President announcing a nuclear strike, then the victim of that strike might have no way to figure out whether the video is authentic in the 12 minutes or so that it takes missiles to land. With the clock ticking, a nervous foreign government might order a real nuclear counterattack in retaliation for a fake video, killing millions of people.

Similarly, Joe Biden has long held that AI is the greatest challenge we have ever faced.

As Biden put it during a joint press conference with the UK Prime Minister in June 2023, “I don’t think ever in the history of human endeavor has there been as fundamental potential technological change as is presented by artificial intelligence. It is staggering. It is staggering.”

Even current Biden White House staffers are concerned with this new technology. “He was as impressed and alarmed as anyone,” Deputy White House Chief of Staff Bruce Reed said in an October 2023 interview with Time magazine. “He saw fake AI images of himself, of his dog. He saw how it can make bad poetry. And he’s seen and heard the incredible and terrifying technology of voice cloning, which can take three seconds of your voice and turn it into an entire fake conversation.”

These concerns seem to have stuck with Biden: earlier this month, the Biden Justice Department blocked the release of Biden’s interview with a special counsel. According to the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Biden Administration worried that releasing the real audio “could spur deepfakes and disinformation that trick Americans,” essentially conceding that “the U.S. government could not stop the misuse of artificial intelligence ahead of this year's election.”

So, what do they plan to do about AI?

What’s less clear is what, if anything, either Presidential candidate would do to curb these dangers after winning an election.

Read our full memo here.