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The White House Has Big Plans for AI

Dyllan Furness

Dyllan explores technology and the human condition for Tech Emergence. His interests include but are not limited to whiskey, kimchi, and Catahoulas.

The White House Has Big Plans for AI

The White House has chimed in on artificial intelligence this week. Some may say it’s too little too late. Others will insist it’s better late than never. In the past year alone, AI discussions have made their way from the fringes of science and science fiction to the forefront of popular culture. We’ve seen intelligent algorithms conquer intuitive board games, strengthen cybersecurity, and pen impressive – if not award winning – novellas.

Recognizing this progress, the White House announced the formation of a new National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, which will meet next week. The subcommittee’s primary objective is to “leverage AI for public good and toward a more effective government” by exploring the field’s recent progress and milestones, wrote Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Ed Felten in a blog post on Tuesday. Furthermore, by monitoring technological developments in the public and private sectors, both domestically and internationally, the Federal Government hopes to coordinate itself within the AI and machine learning space.

In addition to developing the government’s relationship with AI, the White House will also help proffer a more informed and engaged public. Beginning at the end of this month and running into July, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will offer four workshops on AI and machine learning to encourage public dialogue and identify obstacles and opportunities related to the technology. Co-hosted by academic and non-profit organizations, with the help of the National Economic Council, the workshops will cover the implications of AI on law, governance, safety, control, the economy, and social good. The Administration hopes to publish a public report by the end of the year.

The workshops will be held in Seattle, WA (May 24), Washington, DC (June 7), Pittsburgh, PA (June 28), and New York City (July 7). Each will also be livestreamed online for those who can’t attend.

Where the workshops will help spur public discourse – and, hopefully, awareness – in the implications of AI’s increasing involvement in our lives, the NTSC subcommittee will “work to increase the use of AI and machine learning to improve delivery of government services,” including “empowering Federal departments and agencies to run pilot projects evaluating new AI-driven approaches and government investment in research on how to use AI to make government services more effective.” The NTSC group will make special considerations regarding applications of the technology to services that are not typically technology-driven.

Artificial intelligence will fundamentally change our lives and how we live them. From the development of smart cities and smart homes to health and transportation services, AI and machine learning has the potential to alter and improve the way society functions on macro and micro scales. However, rapid progress leaves room for unexpected consequences, both good and bad.

During an interview at the AeroAstro Centennial Symposium two years ago, Elon Musk said, “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” So, it seems, even one of America’s most recognized entrepreneurs perhaps counter-intuitively supports government involvement. Thus, the Administration may be late to class but the lesson has just begun.

Image credit: Creative Commons

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