artificial intelligence

White House Plans for the Federal Government’s AI Future

The White House hosted the first of four summer workshops last week to map out the federal government’s anticipated use of artificial intelligence.

In an increasingly AI-powered world, the White House says the government needs to start thinking about how to regulate and use the powerful technology while it is still dependent on humans, reports Wired.

“The public should have an accurate mental model of what we mean when we say artificial intelligence,” says Ryan Calo, assistant law professor at University of Washington who spoke at last week’s workshop sponsored by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

According to The New York Times, AI experts at the event spent time analyzing the benefits of autonomous systems that are increasingly able to make decisions with little to no human input in important areas like health, transportation and warfare. The researchers also tried to respond to the question whether their creations will replace humans in too many jobs and create a crisis on the workforce market.

Yet, despite improvements in areas like machine vision and speech understanding, AI research is far from matching the flexibility and learning capability of the human mind, researchers at the conference said.

“The A.I. community keeps climbing one mountain after another, and as it gets to the top of each mountain, it sees ahead still more mountains,” said Ed Felten, a computer scientist who is a deputy chief technology officer in the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

With AI’s accelerated advancements over the past few years, the call for government oversight has reemerged just eight years after top AI scientists said the field did not need regulation.

While academics and lawmakers now agree on the need for AI regulations, what that looks like remains uncertain when faced with creating policies to govern everything from Google’s self-driving cars to protecting against algorithm bias.

A recent White House report highlighted the potential for discrimination in big data. To make sense of data, someone must categorize and profile it which leaves the data set vulnerable to prejudices and structural inequities into how the AI thinks and processes information.

Still other critics think prejudice takes a back seat to privacy when it comes to AI technology.

“I do think there are some very real concerns about AI that we ought to be addressing right now,” Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, said. “The existential threat is not one of them. In fact, I think it’s a distraction from some very real concerns. One is about jobs. And the one about privacy is a very real one.”

CTO Felten said the workshop discussions will help inform an interagency policymaking process that includes a public report due out later this year, as well as a request for information from the public.

The next workshop in the White House AI series will concentrate on artificial intelligence for social good, on June 7 in Washington, D.C. The third workshop will focus on AI safety and control, on June 28 in Pittsburgh. The final workshop will explore the social and economic implications of AI, on July 7 in New York City.

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