LAKE WALES, Fla. — The U.S. executive branch — President Obama' science teams — worry about the societal impact of artificial intelligence (AI). Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence— a new study just released by President Obama's National Science and Technology Council, surveys the state-of-the-art in AI and recommends the public- and private-sector policy changes needed to make sure society is served, rather than subjugated, by AI.
A companion report called the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan summarizes needed AI federal funding needs. The economic impact of AI on the U.S. work force is yet another report promised soon.
(Source: U.S. Government)
Overall the take-home message is that AI is here to stay, but that only if diligent and wary, can the government insure that AI remains a benefit, rather than a human societal threat.
"Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology have opened up new markets and new opportunities for progress in critical areas such as health, education, energy, and the environment," said John Holdren, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Megan Smith Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the report's introduction. "Although it is very unlikely that machines will exhibit broadly-applicable intelligence comparable to or exceeding that of humans in the next 20 years, it is to be expected that machines will reach and exceed human performance on more and more tasks."
IBM's brain-like AI chips are already shepherding the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Of course, they are only doing simulations of the remaining destructive power of our aging nuclear arsenal. They are no where near the doomsday scenario of the Orion Pictures movie Terminator where the Skynet AI unleashes a nuclear holocaust. Nevertheless the U.S government never wants anything remotely similar to happen in the real world of AI.
The stated purpose of U.S. government supervision of AI development, according to Holdren and Smith is that "AI will continue to contribute to economic growth and will be a valuable tool for improving the world, as long as industry, civil society, and government work together to develop the positive aspects of the technology, manage its risks and challenges, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to help in building an AI-enhanced society and to participate in its benefits."
One big threat the report alludes to is a further widening of the poor-to-rich gap, while AI takes over the middle ground jobs leaving only low-end service/manual-labor jobs and high-end engineering/management jobs for people. However, most of those concerns were deferred to the promised "economic impact" AI report.
The current reports instead focus on what is the state-of-the-art today and how it is likely to evolve over the next 20 years.
One last data point on jobs, however, which is not in the "Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence" report, is a June 2016 Forester Research report that reinforces the possible negative economic impact of AI. In its $499 report The Future Of White-Collar Work: Sharing Your Cubicle With Robots its first chapter titled "Robots Aren't Stealing All The Jobs — Just 7% Of Them." it is predicted that AI will eliminate 16 percent of U.S. jobs, while creating only nine percent new U.S. jobs.
The U.S. "Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence" 48-page report, on the other hand, offers 23 concrete recommendations to make sure AI is a benefit to society worldwide:
Recommendation 1: Private and public institutions are encouraged to examine whether and how they can responsibly leverage AI and machine learning in ways that will benefit society. Social justice and public policy institutions that do not typically engage with advanced technologies and data science in their work should consider partnerships with AI researchers and practitioners that can help apply AI tactics to the broad social problems these institutions already address in other ways.
Recommendation 2: Federal agencies should prioritize open training data and open data standards in AI. The government should emphasize the release of datasets that enable the use of AI to address social challenges. Potential steps may include developing an 'Open Data for AI' initiative with the objective of releasing a significant number of government data sets to accelerate AI research and galvanize the use of open data standards and best practices across government, academia, and the private sector.
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