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How to Prepare for the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is announcing a Request for Information soliciting public input on the subject of artificial intelligence.

Last month, the White House announced a series of actions as part of a new White House Future of Artificial Intelligence initiative, designed to learn more about the benefits and risks of AI. Since making that announcement, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has co-hosted two public workshops on opposite ends of the country—the first in Seattle at the University of Washington, focused on the legal and governance implications of AI, and the second here recently in Washington, DC, where we heard about AI for public good. This month and next, we will be in Pittsburgh on June 28 to discuss safety and control for AI, and New York City on July 7 to explore AI’s social and economic implications. You can join these events in person (subject to venue constraints) by registering via the event websites, or you can follow the discussion via livestream and social media, where we will be using the hashtag #FutureofAI.  

Today, we are announcing another action to build on these efforts and expand the opportunity for public participation in this conversation. Between now and July 22, 2016, OSTP is soliciting public input on the subject of artificial intelligence via a Request For Information (RFI) published today in the Federal Register. The RFI’s purpose is to solicit feedback on how America can best prepare for the future of AI, including information about AI research and the tools, technologies, and scientific training that are needed.

AI technologies offer great potential for creating new and innovative products, growing the economy, and advancing national priorities in areas such as education, mental and physical health, climate change, and more. Like any transformative technology, however, AI carries risks and presents complex policy challenges along a number of different fronts—and these are concerns and opportunities that we hope to learn more about via the public workshop series and through public responses to our RFI. Broadly, OSTP is interested in developing a view of AI across all sectors for the purpose of recommending directions for research and determining challenges and opportunities in this field. The views of the American people, including stakeholders such as consumers, academic and industry researchers, private companies, and charitable foundations, are critical to informing an understanding of current and future needs for AI in diverse fields.

The importance of cross-sector engagement on this topic cannot be overemphasized. Already, we have learned a tremendous amount since the first AI workshop—and we are excited to continue the conversation. The Seattle event drew a standing-room-only crowd, and we heard from industry leaders, academic experts, and policymakers there on the challenges involved in building sophisticated AI, applying models of liability to AI, how the government uses technology and regulates it, and concerns related to data, fairness, and ethics. At the recent DC workshop, which was livestreamed to over 3,500 viewers in the United States and around the world, researchers and practitioners talked about AI applied to problem-solving in health, environmental sustainability, urban computing, criminal justice, and social welfare. We heard about the use of AI to help protect endangered wildlife, fish, and forests by analyzing illegal poaching and to improve medical care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where it is used to build surgical care decision support tools drawing on clinical data and cutting-edge science. Researchers also presented on using AI to optimize network-based public transport systems, helping service more users faster and cheaper, and on the opportunities and challenges for AI in criminal justice to decrease incarceration and recidivism rates without replicating or reinforcing inequality and other flaws in the current system.

Building on the conversations held at these public workshops, OSTP also co-hosted with Stanford University an event last week focused on artificial intelligence entitled The Future of AI: Emerging Topics and Societal Benefits. At the event, which was held on Stanford University’s campus as a Partner event of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), we were joined by international entrepreneurs, researchers, and industry leaders in the field of AI for a discussion about the most impactful research topics in AI. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith delivered the opening keynote, and attendees also heard from experts in industry and academia about recent breakthroughs and potential advances in artificial intelligence, and how they will ripple through every aspect of how people work, live, and play.

We hope that you will share your thoughts and ideas to help America prepare for the future of AI by participating in these events and the RFI. We look forward to hearing from you.

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