Researchers disagree on when artificial intelligence that displays something like human understanding might arrive. But the Obama administration isn't waiting to find out. 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. "The public should have an accurate mental model of what we mean when we say artificial intelligence," says Ryan Calo, who teaches law at University of Washington. Calo spoke last week at the first of four workshops the White House hosts this summer to examine how to address an increasingly AI-powered world.
Between the University of Washington, a thriving tech community, and strong research institutions, like the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2), many of the rapid developments in AI are playing out in Seattle. Perhaps that's why the White House has selected the Emerald City for its first public workshop on artificial intelligence. The Office of Science and Technology Policy will co-host the first of four events on artificial intelligence at the University of Washington May 24. The workshop, put on by the UW's Tech Policy Lab and School of Law, will explore issues such as policy, logistical applications, and safety, as they relate to AI. Speakers include AI2 CEO and UW Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Oren Etzioni, White House Deputy U.S. CTO Edward Felten, Microsoft Principal Researcher Kate Crawford, and other industry experts. The workshops are intended "to spur public dialogue on artificial intelligence and machine learning and identify challenges and opportunities related to this emerging technology," writes Felton in a White House blog post.
Should the government regulate artificial intelligence? That was the central question of the first White House workshop on the legal and governance implications of AI, held in Seattle on Tuesday. "We are observing issues around AI and machine learning popping up all over the government," said Ed Felten, White House deputy chief technology officer. "We are nowhere near the point of broadly regulating AI … but the challenge is how to ensure AI remains safe, controllable, and predictable as it gets smarter." One of the key aims of the workshop, said one of its organizers, University of Washington law professor Ryan Calo, was to help the public understand where the technology is now and where it's headed.
Artificial intelligence researchers are grappling with more realistic questions like whether their creations will take too many jobs from humans. Eight years after leading artificial intelligence scientists said their field did not need to be regulated, the question of government oversight has re-emerged as the technology has rapidly progressed. On Tuesday, at an event sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, legal specialists and technologists explored questions about autonomous systems that would increasingly make decisions without human input in areas like warfare, transportation and health. Still, despite improvement in areas like machine vision and speech understanding, A.I. research is still 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.
The University of Washington School of Law is delighted to announce a public workshop on the law and policy of artificial intelligence, co-hosted 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. The event is free and open to the public but requires registration. Jack M. Balkin is Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School. He is the founder and director of Yale's Information Society Project, an interdisciplinary center that studies law and new information technologies.