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Artificial Intelligence has the potential to help us realize our shared dream of a better future for all of humanity, but it will bring with it challenges and opportunities we can’t yet foresee.

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Largest U.S. Center on Artificial Intelligence, Policy Comes to Georgetown

February 28, 2019 – A $55 million grant is creating the largest center in the United States focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and policy at Georgetown.

“Technologists don’t always consider the details of policy, and policymakers don’t always consider the details of technology.” Matheny, who previously served as Director of the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), has extensive experience in the fields of technology and society, as well as AI.

Matheny says he was attracted to Georgetown because of university’s “outstanding students, faculty, fellows and staff” the university's historical commitment to public service and its network of alumni, many of whom are directly involved in policy.

The university was chosen to host the center over a number of other top 25 universities, reflecting its pivotal role in the DC policy community and its strong commitment to engaging the ethical dimensions of contemporary policy challenges.

“Georgetown, with its wide-ranging expertise in both technology and policy, is positioned to bridge the gap so that society can reap the rewards offered by new technologies while minimizing their hazards,” adds Matheny.

CSET will become a key component of the university’s new Initiative in Technology and Society, bringing together research and teaching across Georgetown that focus on creating better and more ethical policies and uses for new technologies with an eye to better societal outcomes.

President Trump’s Executive Order on Artificial Intelligence

On Feb. 11, President Trump issued a new executive order regarding artificial intelligence (AI).

The order declares: “It is the policy of the United States Government to sustain and enhance the scientific, technological, and economic leadership position of the United States in AI R&D and deployment through a coordinated Federal Government strategy.” If this vision is implemented fully (a big “if”), maintaining and enhancing U.S. leadership on AI would be a major policy achievement.

For example, one of the strategic objectives set forth in the order is the following: “Enhance access to high-quality and fully traceable Federal data, models, and computing resources to increase the value of such resources for AI R&D, while maintaining safety, security, privacy, and confidentiality protections consistent with applicable laws and policies.” This is important.

China has a disproportionate advantage over other countries in terms of the volume of data about human behavior to which its AI developers have access because of its intensive (and repressive) collection of data about the activities of its very large population and its likely theft of data from countries around the world.

One of the five principles that guide the policy set forth in the executive order includes the goal of “protecting our critical AI technologies from acquisition by strategic competitors and adversarial nations.” Indeed, doing so is essential for the long-term national security and economic well-being of the United States.

A related objective the order describes is to “[e]nsure that technical standards [developed by the federal government pursuant to the order] minimize vulnerability to attacks from malicious actors.” Protecting the integrity of AI technology from a physical and cybersecurity perspective is also essential in order to make sure that our AI systems work as intended.

In addition, the order requires that federal agencies implementing it: Develop and implement an action plan, in accordance with the National Security Presidential Memorandum of February 11, 2019 (Protecting the United States Advantage in Artificial Intelligence and Related Critical Technologies) (the NSPM) to protect the advantage of the United States in AI and technology critical to United States economic and national security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.

(a) As directed by the NSPM, the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, in coordination with the OSTP Director and the recipients of the NSPM, shall organize the development of an action plan to protect the United States advantage in AI and AI technology critical to United States economic and national security interests against strategic competitors and adversarial nations.

And in addition to protecting technology, they must focus on protecting the people who have relevant AI expertise and making sure that our immigration policies allow us to attract, educate and retain the best AI minds in the world.

AI development requires access to big data, but we don’t want things to get out of hand—for example, we don’t want agencies making decisions on important privacy questions based on narrow-minded and overly aggressive legal analysis that fails to take into consideration the broader legal, policy and reputational interests potentially at stake.

The failure to offer a better definition is a real miss, and I fear it will have collateral consequences for the government’s ability to adequately fund research and development of AI systems, protect the rights of Americans as related to AI and secure AI systems from hostile foreign actors.

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