Innovation

US Senate subcommittee meets on 'The Dawn of AI'

In October, the White House released a report and recommended guidelines on the development of AI. Today, a Senate hearing will bring in top AI experts to examine the current state of AI.

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Image: ZDNet


In a Senate office building at 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, experts and policymakers will convene to discuss one of the most important and complex technology developments today: Artificial intelligence.

The meeting, hosted by the subcommittee on Space, Science, and Competitiveness Hearing, is part of the Senate's committee on commerce, science, and transportation.

Chaired by Sen. Ted Cruz, the hearing aims to take a broad look at the current state of artificial intelligence, the questions it raises about policy, and its implications on commerce. Andrew Moore, dean at the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, outlined three goals for the meeting: "First, what AI is and what it isn't. Second,why things are changing so rapidly right now, and how this can play out over the coming decade. And third, what keeps me awake at night regarding the U.S. position in the AI race—­­the pivotal technology race of this century.

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Andrew Moore, dean of the school of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, speaks at a Senate hearing on AI.

Image: screenshot

The meeting comes after President Obama announced his public initiatives to address artificial intelligence in October, including the report Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, a guest column in Wired magazine, and the White House Frontiers Conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering, co-hosted by the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University.

The White House report on AI offered a thorough examination of how this high tech can improve our lives—as well as the importance of safety when it comes to research and development.

At today's Senate hearing, which will be livestreamed, five experts will be present:

  • Eric Horvitz, interim co-chair, Partnership on AI; managing director, Microsoft Research Lab
  • Andrew Moore, dean, School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Andrew Futreal, professor, Department of Genomic Medicine, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
  • Greg Brockman, co-founder and CTO, OpenAI
  • Steve Chien, senior research scientist, Autonomous Space Systems and Technical Group supervisor, Artificial Intelligence Group, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology

While it is unclear how the experts were chosen—it should be noted, there are no women included—a source at Carnegie Mellon said that the invitation to Andrew Moore was motivated by his appearance on 60 Minutes.

While President Obama's grasp of AI, and understanding of its significance, has been generally praised by the AI community, some experts have questioned what might happen to AI when it comes to education, funding for scientific research, and the safe development of autonomous weapons under President-elect Trump. "The White House went to a lot of effort engaging with the AI community over the last year, understanding the issues, and produced an excellent report with some good recommendations," said Toby Walsh, AI professor at the University of South Wales. "It will be a great pity if this all turns into smoke."

SEE: AI experts weigh in on the White House approach to artificial intelligence (TechRepublic)

Still, he said, the hearing shows that "government is waking up to the considerable changes ahead as we move to a new economy powered by automation. These are challenging times. The Senate Committee will no doubt receive some very level headed advice from some of the most respected members of the AI community."

Vince Conitzer, professor of computer science at Duke University, agrees. "President Obama has taken AI very seriously, and it will be interesting to see the Senators' view on this, especially with both houses of Congress controlled by the Republican party," he said. "Given the themes that emerged in the recent election, I imagine the topic of AI taking over jobs will be especially prominent."

Stay tuned as TechRepublic continues to pursue the latest developments in the White House's plans for AI.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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