we, robot an industry look at ai public policy stances

In 2017, artificial intelligence and machine learning will be two of the most developed and talked about technologies. The presence of artificial intelligence can already be seen in smartphones, GPS systems, weather predictors, manufacturing equipment, and many more of the systems already integrated in our daily lives. The implications of artificial intelligence on business and government are many; artificial intelligence has been both lauded as the future of what jobs and digital government will look like but also criticized for potential challenges to safety, privacy and job security.

In a survey conducted by Infosys of 1600 business and IT executives two-thirds of decision-makers also believe AI will "bring out the best in their organization’s people” (Infosys survey). Additionally, many decision-makers (71%) believe that business-to-consumer is the model that is most likely to be impacted by AI and almost all (97%) feel that there are "customer benefits to be had from the adoption of AI”

While AI is not without its flaws, not tapping into the benefits of AI can mean lower growth in income, slower progress in industries such as health care, education, security and the environment as well as reduced quality in public and private goods and services.
Despite the inevitability of the presence of AI, many tech corporations have yet to take public policy stances on AI. This comes as a surprise regarding how many of these companies have already worked to develop AI on the business and research aspects. As of right now, the clear majority of the tech policy response to AI has been led by those companies regarded as the industry leaders- notably, the Partnership on AI made up of Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft.

Policy Stances So Far- BSA, ITIC, and more

In many ways, company’s statements on AI have come more in the form of executive statements and blog posts rather than articulated public policy stances, however, there are some examples of tech companies calling for government action around AI. For example, the Partnership on AI, made up of Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft, has spoken on the importance of the connection between the tech world and the public policy world in regards to AI. The Partnership has spoken to the importance of open research dialogue on the “ethical, social, economic and legal” implications of AI and keeping policymakers as stakeholders in the discussion around AI (Partnership on AI website).

Microsoft is arguably a corporation which has shown how quickly AI can be used for negative purposes if not carefully monitored. After the Tay AI chatbot had been hijacked, Microsoft called for a need to draw ethics guidelines in AI. As seen with Tay, it is important to prevent the manipulation of AI algorithms to perpetuate discrimination and unfairness. Despite the public failure of Tay, Microsoft has continued to take the stance that AI can still provide economic, social and political benefits. In a hearing of the House Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Technology and Competitiveness entitled “The Dawn of AI”, Eric Horvitz, Technical Fellow and Director Microsoft Research—Redmond Lab Microsoft Corporation recommended that the government support funding and research investment for innovation and “create frameworks that enable citizens and researchers” while still encouraging a focus on protecting privacy and security (Testimony of Eric Horvitz, Committee on Commerce website). Horvitz specifically spoke to the need for public-private collaborations and to focus on researching at the intersection of AI and law and policy. Other areas of focus include the protection of privacy and security and investment in workforce training and retraining to promote the skills that are required for jobs in the STEM industry. Miscrosoft also spoke to the need to include “colleagues in ethics, law, policy and the public at large” around current events concerns in AI (Partnership on AI website)

Texas Instruments, while not regarded as a ‘typical’ tech company in the same vein as the members of the Partnership on AI, has called for government action concerning research and innovation in AI. TI calls for support of programs that empower fundamental scientific research as a way “to securing continued competitiveness, technological leadership, economic growth and a skilled workforce”. The proposed federal funding can support the research of AI at the university level as well as national labs.
Additionally, in an article written for New Europe Executive Vice President of Intel Diane Bryant spoke to the potential of benefits of AI and how governments worldwide can boost innovation in the realm of AI through three facets- 1. Drive, 2. Democratize, 3. Guide (“Crossing the threshold of the AI revolution, neweurope.eu). For “drive”, policymakers can work with private partners to implement policies and partnerships that develop AI. Governments can democratize AI by preparing a workforce ready to work in AI, and by funding research, supporting students, and supporting global data flows and not restricting data regarding AI research and development. Finally, industry and government can guide AI by framing discussions around the ethics of AI and challenges that arise around privacy, security, bias and employment.

Recommendations for the Government in the Development and Deployment of AI

In the October 2016, the Executive Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology published a report entitled Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, John P. Holdren, then-Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director, Office of Science and Technology and Megan Smith, then-Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. put forth sixteen recommendations on how the federal government can incorporate AI in its operations and support its development. These recommendations include: working with private institutions to encourage responsible uses of AI; prioritizing open data standards in the federal government regarding AI; bringing in technical expertise into agencies to set policy on AI; investing in programs that introduce AI in air traffic, public safety, cybersecurity and defense systems; adding ethics-based AI classes to school curricula; monitoring international development and progress in AI; and developing a government-wide policy on AI.

Later, in the December 2016 report Artificial Intelligence, Automation and the Economy, the Executive Office of the President puts forward three strategies for policy responses regarding AI. The first is to invest in and develop AI for its many benefits. The second strategy is to educate and train Americans for the jobs of the future. Beyond education, workforce training and workforce retraining in STEM, the report suggests the expansion of access to apprenticeships. The third strategy is to aid workers in the transition and empower workers to ensure broadly shared growth. This suggests a multifaceted approach, including by modernizing social safety net, expanding healthcare, building retirement system; giving workers improved guidance to navigate job transitions and reducing geographic barriers to work such as occupational licensing, zoning and land-use regulations.

Possible Public Policy Recommendations to Consider

-Support for universal STEM education integrated in K-12 curricula, including classes on AI

-Establishment of available classes on AI that incorporate discussions of law, policy and ethics

-Investing in research & development in AI at public universities and research labs

-Public-private working groups to discuss framework of public policy stances on AI, with business and government perspectives

-The re-establishment of the Congressional AI Caucus in the 115th Congress, with an emphasis on drawing bipartisan membership

-Implementation of AI in government agencies, particularly by recruiting tech expertise from private sector but also from within government agencies

-Creation of workforce retraining programs focused on STEM skills related to AI, especially in industries such as manufacturing, public works and healthcare

-Establishment of taskforce to develop ‘best practices’ in AI by monitoring successful uses of AI in federal, state and local government as well as industry

-Establishment of industry and policymaker taskforce to monitor developments in AI among foreign states, and to flag any developments that could potentially cause security or safety challenges

-Federal agency-wide adoption of open data standards in AI

-Development of federal government-wide strategy/stance related to ethics in AI, with input from tech industry, legal support and academia


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