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US Government Believes AI Is Beneficial But Warns Of Job Risk

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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But AI will also present new opportunities for health, education, energy, and the environment

The White House has called for the rollout of artificial intelligence (AI) to be policed by regulators in a a report on its likely future applications.

The 58 page report entitled ‘Preparing for the future of artificial intelligence‘ offered up a number of scenarios of the future world where AI is a reality, although it admits that a complete AI scenario is unlikely within the next 20 years.

Regulation, Jobs

The report examines the current of AI, its existing and potential applications, and the questions that progress in AI raise for society and public policy in the United States. It makes recommendations for specific further actions, and comes amid strategic planning for federally-funded AI R&D.

The document points out AI has many applications in a number of industries, including those in the car and aircraft industry, with self-driving cars and unmanned aircraft (drones) for example. It says that as these systems are rolled out, there must be sufficient regulatory overwatch and necessary rules in place to ensure safety and compliance.

But the white house warns that AI is expected to impact the labour market, and could put some jobs at risk.

“The rapid growth of AI has dramatically increased the need for people with relevant skills to support and advance the field,” it says. “AI’s central economic effect in the short term will be the automation of tasks that could not be automated before.”

“This will likely increase productivity and create wealth, but it may also affect particular types of jobs in different ways, reducing demand for certain skills that can be automated while increasing demand for other skills that are complementary to AI.

“Analysis by the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) suggests that the negative effect of automation will be greatest on lower-wage jobs, and that there is a risk that AI-driven automation will increase the wage gap between less-educated and more-educated workers, potentially increasing economic inequality.”

The report adds that public policy could address these risks and ensure workers are retrained in occupations complementary to, rather than competing with, automation.

AI Weapons

The report also points out that AI has a role to play in the cyber security field. “Today’s AI has important applications in cybersecurity, and is expected to play an increasing role for both defensive and offensive cyber measures,” said the report.

terminator robotAnd the report even addresses the concerns of weaponised AI, highlighted by films such as “The Terminator”.

“Challenging issues are raised by the potential use of AI in weapon systems,” says the report. “The United States has incorporated autonomy in certain weapon systems for decades … nonetheless, moving away from direct human control of weapon systems involves some risks and can raise legal and ethical questions.

“The key to incorporating autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems into American defense planning is to ensure that US Government entities are always acting in accordance with international humanitarian law, taking appropriate steps to control proliferation, and working with partners and Allies to develop standards related to the development and use of such weapon systems.”

Looking to the future the report believes that 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.”

It saiys the US government must start having conversations about AI and set the public debate going forward. The government should also “monitor the safety and fairness of applications as they develop, and adapt regulatory frameworks to encourage innovation while protecting the public.”

The report then goes onto list a number of AI recommendations for government bodies going forward.

As the technology of AI continues to develop, practitioners must ensure that AI-enabled systems are governable; that they are open, transparent, and understandable; that they can work effectively with people; and that their operation will remain consistent with human values and aspirations,” the report concludes

“Used thoughtfully, AI can augment our intelligence, helping us chart a better and wiser path forward,” it says

AI Perils

The advent of AI has led to some notable figures warning of the dangers the technology poses.

The boss of Telsa, Elon Musk, has previously called AI “our biggest existential threat”. Former Microsoft boss Bill Gates has also admitted he was “concerned” about AI and agreed with Musk’s view.

And one of the world’s most prominent theoretical physicists, Professor Hawking, is another notable figure warning of the dangers that AI presents.

He has previously warned of the perils of robots and artificial intelligence. He suggested at the time that mankind faces judgement day.

More recently he predicted humanity has just 100 years left before the machines take over.

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