Hollywood action star Tom Cruise has long been a powerhouse at the box office, with Top Gun: Maverick grossing more than $1.4 billion worldwide and the Mission Impossible franchise grossing more than $4 billion. Now, his influence has extended to the White House.
President Joe Biden watched Cruise’s newest movie, Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One, at Camp David recently. The film’s antagonist is a sentient, rogue AI known as “the Entity,” and it helped inspire Biden to sign an executive order on Monday establishing guardrails for artificial intelligence.
“If he hadn’t already been concerned about what could go wrong with AI before that movie, he saw plenty more to worry about,” Bruce Reed, White House deputy chief of staff who watched the film with Biden, told the Associated Press.
The executive order will require leading AI developers—like tech giants Google, Microsoft, and Amazon—to share their safety test results and other information with the government. The order also establishes rigorous standards for testing the security of AI, sets guidance for clearly identifying and labeling AI-generated content, and protects people from their data being used to train AI without their knowledge.
It’s unclear when Biden actually watched the Mission: Impossible sequel, which premiered on July 12. But the executive order was months in the making and the president was both “impressed and alarmed” by the technology prior to watching the movie, according to Reed.
“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,” Reed said.
‘We can’t move at a normal government pace‘
In recent months, tech and ethics leaders have called on the White House to take action on the new technology. In one such meeting with Washington officials earlier this year, some of the most powerful voices in AI—including OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai—discussed the risks and benefits of the technology and the need for safeguards.
The Biden administration previously secured voluntary commitments from Big Tech companies to share AI safety information and published the outline for an “AI Bill of Rights” to guide the design and use of AI systems, but Monday’s order was the first with real legal power. Under the executive order, which is enforceable as law, the government can sue companies that don’t share safety test results and other information. Consumers can expect to see additional regulations resulting from the order, experts told Fortune.
Tech is especially difficult to regulate because innovations in the quickly moving industry often outpace the legislation. Biden’s executive order is vague at times—saying the government will “develop tools” without disclosing what they are—but that’s in recognition of the quickly advancing technology, experts told Fortune. If Biden listed specific goals in his order, they might be outdated by the time the government achieves them. By keeping the language fuzzy, the administration can continue to deliver on promises it made in the Monday order as AI technologies evolve.
“We can’t move at a normal government pace,” White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients said Biden told him, the AP reported. “We have to move as fast, if not faster than the technology itself.”