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White House launches public workshops on AI issues

May 4, 2016

circuit_board_brain_neural_AI_machine_learning_DeepMind_Pong_Cooperation_competitionThe White House today announced a series of public workshops on artificial intelligence (AI) and the creation of an interagency working group to learn more about the benefits and risks of artificial intelligence. The first workshop Artificial Intelligence: Law and Policy will take place on May 24 at the University of Washington School of Law, cohosted by the White House and UW’s Tech Policy Lab. The event places leading artificial intelligence experts from academia and industry in conversation with government officials interested in developing a wise and effective policy framework for this increasingly important technology.

Speakers include:

The final workshop will be held on July 7th at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, New York. The Social and Economic Implications of Artificial Intelligence Technologies in the Near-Term will address the near-term impacts of AI technologies across social and economic systems. The event is hosted by the White House and New York University’s Information Law Institute, with support from Google Open Research and Microsoft Research.

The focus will be the challenges of the next 5-10 years, specifically addressing five themes: social inequality, labor, financial markets, healthcare, and ethics. Leaders from industry, academia, and civil society will share ideas for technical design, research and policy directions.

You can learn more about these events via the links to the event websites below, and each workshop will be livestreamed:

According to Ed Felton, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer, “There is a lot of excitement about artificial intelligence (AI) and how to create computers capable of intelligent behavior. After years of steady but slow progress on making computers “smarter” at everyday tasks, a series of breakthroughs in the research community and industry have recently spurred momentum and investment in the development of this field.

Today’s AI is confined to narrow, specific tasks, and isn’t anything like the general, adaptable intelligence that humans exhibit. Despite this, AI’s influence on the world is growing. The rate of progress we have seen will have broad implications for fields ranging from healthcare to image- and voice-recognition. In healthcare, the President’s Precision Medicine Initiative and the Cancer Moonshot will rely on AI to find patterns in medical data and, ultimately, to help doctors diagnose diseases and suggest treatments to improve patient care and health outcomes.

In education, AI has the potential to help teachers customize instruction for each student’s needs. And, of course, AI plays a key role in self-driving vehicles, which have the potential to save thousands of lives, as well as in unmanned aircraft systems, which may transform global transportation, logistics systems, and countless industries over the coming decades.

Like any transformative technology, however, artificial intelligence carries some risk and presents complex policy challenges along several dimensions, from jobs and the economy to safety and regulatory questions. For example, AI will create new jobs while phasing out some old ones—magnifying the importance of programs like TechHire that are preparing our workforce with the skills to get ahead in today’s economy, and tomorrow’s. AI systems can also behave in surprising ways, and we’re increasingly relying on AI to advise decisions and operate physical and virtual machinery—adding to the challenge of predicting and controlling how complex technologies will behave.

There are tremendous opportunities and an array of considerations across the Federal Government in privacy, security, regulation, law, and research and development to be taken into account when effectively integrating this technology into both government and private-sector activities.

That is why the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is excited to announce that we will be co-hosting four public workshops over the coming months on topics in AI to spur public dialogue on artificial intelligence and machine learning and identify challenges and opportunities related to this emerging technology. These four workshops will be co-hosted by academic and non-profit organizations, and two of them will also be co-hosted by the National Economic Council. These workshops will feed into the development of a public report later this year. We invite anyone interested to learn more about this emergent field of technology and give input about future directions and areas of challenge and opportunity.

The Federal Government also is working to leverage AI for public good and toward a more effective government. A new National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will meet for the first time next week. This group will monitor state-of-the-art advances and technology milestones in artificial intelligence and machine learning within the Federal Government, in the private sector, and internationally; and help coordinate Federal activity in this space.

Broadly, between now and the end of the Administration, the NSTC group will work to increase the use of AI and machine learning to improve the delivery of government services. Such efforts may include 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. Applications in AI to areas of government that are not traditionally technology-focused are especially significant; there is tremendous potential in AI-driven improvements to programs and delivery of services that help make everyday life better for Americans in areas related to urban systems and smart cities, mental and physical health, social welfare, criminal justice, the environment, and much more.

We look forward to engaging with the public about how best to harness the opportunities brought by artificial intelligence. Stay tuned for more information about the work we’re doing on this subject as it develops over the coming months.”

Ed Felten is a Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer.

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