White House Addresses Artificial Intelligence Challenges in New Report

With progress come challenges, the report says, calling for government regulation of products using AI to protect public safety, with full disclosure of risks the technology poses.

by David Templeton, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / October 14, 2016
The White House released its report on Artificial Intelligence at the Frontiers Conference 2016. Flickr/NASAHQPHOTO

(TNS) -- Nowadays people are — or arguably should be — aware of the advances, promises and challenges of artificial intelligence, which already controls computers, mobile phones, automobiles and just about everything else that has a battery or power cord.

Along with artificial intelligence (AI) comes the need to make sure benefits aren’t undermined by risks with something controlled by a computer algorithm rather than humans.

It’s an important but complex topic, explaining why the White House released a 58-page report, “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence,” in advance of today’s Frontiers Conference at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

“Developing and studying machine intelligence can help us better understand and appreciate our human intelligence,” states the report’s executive summary. “AI can augment our intelligence, helping us chart a better and wiser path forward.”

But with progress come challenges, the report says, calling for government regulation of products using AI to protect public safety, with full disclosure of risks the technology poses. Such regulations already exist or are being adopted for new motor vehicles, weaponry and drone technologies, among others.

Technological advances also could change the workforce significantly, the report warns.

While increasing productivity and create wealth, AI also may have various impacts on jobs, reducing demand for skills that can be automated while increasing demand for workers with skills complementary to AI. Negative effects of AI will be born by those with lower-wage jobs, with new jobs likely to be higher-wage, “potentially increasing economic inequality,” it says.

That will raise the need for public policy to ensure “that workers are retrained and able to succeed in occupations that are complementary to, rather than competing with, automation,” the report states, adding that “economic benefits created by new technology should be shared broadly.”

Another concern is safety, especially as new technologies have unintended consequences after widespread public adoption.

AI experts caution about the many challenges in understanding and predicting behavior of advanced AI systems, the report says, with weapon systems and drones representing “key concerns about moving away from direct human control of complicated technology.”

Government roles include holding public discussion and debates about advances in AI and monitoring the safety and fairness in its application. There’s also the need for government to find middle ground with regulations that encourage innovation and avoid disrupting new developments, all while protecting the public.

“AI holds the potential to be a major driver of economic growth and social progress, if industry, civil society, government and the public work together to support development of the technology with thoughtful attention to its potential and to managing its risks,” the report concludes.

©2016 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.