The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Society | Terah Lyons | TEDxBeaconStreet



what do you think of when I say artificial intelligence is it something like this or maybe this or something more like this artificial intelligence or AI is a subfield of computer science which enables intelligence exhibited by machines and even experts disagree about what exactly defines AI but usually they can agree that if something exhibits intelligence if it interacts with its environment in complex ways then we can generally call it AI how many of you thought of this when I said artificial intelligence I work in the White House in the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the hand on the left belongs to our President Barack Obama the hand on the right belongs to a paralyzed man named Nathan Copeland who's using a brain computer interface to actually control and feel that robotic arm with his mind the Office of Science and Technology Policy works on some pretty amazing things on behalf of the president the US government and the American people I have people in my office who are working on policy matters related to energy and the environment cyber security nanotechnology biotechnology and much much more and my policy portfolio focuses on artificial intelligence and robotics so I get to wake up every morning and craft policy related to AI machine learning and technology platforms like automated vehicles and drones you can think of this talk steward of the schoolhouse rock with a Jetsons twist in 2016 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy started a policy process around artificial intelligence called the White House future of AI initiative we hosted a series of public events five across the country and we solicited public input on all different topics related to AI back in October of 2016 we published a significant public report on the future of artificial intelligence and a companion national AI research and development strategic plan the almost 70 page AI report was a big deal primarily because it's really the most significant thing the White House has ever said about AI and it's not the first time that the White House has awoken to the issue of artificial intelligence obviously this technology has existed for a while now though though the decade sorry though though the field of AI has existed for several decades recent progress in AI has been driven by three primary factors that have built upon each other the availability of big data which in turn has helped power more sophisticated algorithms and machine learning techniques and in turn has relied upon faster computing infrastructure policymaking is a process of radical collaboration and the AI policy process for us was no different it is a synthesis of of complex ideas both drawn from within and outside of the government community and across the country we had thousands of people tune into our AI workshop series we spoke to people across the public and the private sectors experts in a variety of different fields and people from all different disciplines and backgrounds the public the White House heard about artificial intelligence and it was via meetings phone calls emails and even faxes yes really faxes from Americans constituents all across the country and even across the globe the Obama administration heard about artificial intelligence and today I'm gonna talk about a few key takeaways from the lessons that we learned the first is that we have an imperative to use AI one of the most common things we heard from people whether they were public citizens or experts in the field was that it is critically necessary that we responsibly develop and deploy as much artificial intelligence as we possibly can Jason Furman the chair of the President's Council of Economic Advisers said that his biggest worry about AI was that we don't have enough of it other experts argued that people are actually dying today because we aren't deploying AI in settings where we know it can help save human lives it's not AI that will bring on at the end of humanity they said but the absence of these technologies that is already killing people and costing lives citing you know medical errors and ineffective disease treatment as areas where we can apply machine learning techniques to save people's lives in health care ai is helping us predict treat and and help develop patient care in one example AI is being used to process vast amounts of oncological data to create a complete map of pancreatic cancer so that we can better target these processes with treatment mechanisms that can more effectively enabled cancer treatment ai is also helping us save our planet researchers are creating an autonomous computational system called wild book which helping biologists track and evaluate animals for conservation purposes across the globe using image recognition techniques and crowd-sourced publicly available images of all sorts of Wildlife across the world we can actually identify and track individual animals like zebras elephants and whales and this can help us reduce the incidence of illegal poaching it can help us conserve endangered populations and can also help us better learn about the species with which with which we share our world and importantly a I can also help us impact vulnerable populations by providing critical assistance in social challenge areas like poverty and education in one recent example a school district in Tacoma Washington partnered with a tech company to develop a machine learning model that helped analyze student and historical data to predict which students were most at risk of dropping out of school and prompt early intervention and after a multi-year pilot of that system they actually were able to boost graduation rates from 55% to 78 percent in just four years AI is impacting all areas of society and it's clear from these examples and many others that that's the case we also learned that it's critical for everyone to develop and benefit from AI it's a pretty normal day if I am one of the only woman in a lot of my meetings and that story isn't new not in the tech sector and certainly not in the field of computer science unfortunately the field of AI is even more homogeneous today just 18 percent of graduates and computer science are female down from a peak of 37 percent in 1984 and the field of AI is even less diverse at a recent neural information processing systems conference in 2015 which is one of the largest conferences on AI research in the world just 13 percent of participants were female blacks Latinos and members of other ethnic and racial minority groups are also severely underrepresented compared to their shares of the u.s. population in stem and the tech workforce and certainly in the field of computer science and the subfield of AI as machine learning techniques become more ubiquitous and we use them more and more in everyday life to replace human decision-making it becomes increasingly important for us to get this technology right last year users of a popular photo app which automatically applied tags to digital photos and albums discovered that it was actually classifying images of black people as gorillas machine learning often reflects biases that exist in everyday life in this case it was fundamentally a data problem but it also impacts algorithms and the outputs of AI systems it is critically important and we all have a responsibility for us to ensure that AI systems reflect diverse populations and that we help reduce the negative impacts of narrowly focused AI development and unintended biases in AI systems the third lesson that we learned is that understanding AI can be hard but is deeply important I don't know if any of you have seen this video of a robot named Atlas by Massachusetts firm Boston Dynamics but for those of you who haven't it depicts a robot stumbling through a snowy field with dexterity than somebody like me probably could and getting pushed over by a person only to spring back up again with an almost disturbing resilience when this video came online last winter I got a call from my grandfather who had never before talked to me about policy matters related to my job what are you doing about this robot he said so it had personally affronted him somehow from the computer screen on which he was watching it I think this video was an important lesson for a lot of people because it made especially salient the current state of Technology but it was also a critical lesson for me in my position at the time because it also helped me realize the potential disconnect that exists between the people working on the science and the policies behind these technologies and everyone else and it turns out that people vary in how well they understand AI in a recent global consumer survey by Weber shanwick and KRC research over under 20% of global survey participants actually so that they understand a lot about AI and over 30 percent actually admitted to not knowing anything so you're not alone if you don't really understand this field of Technology interestingly though despite of this we are pretty positive about the overall impact of artificial intelligence forty five percent of us think it's gonna be positive and only seven percent of us think it's gonna be negative and fifty two percent of consumers believe that AI will have a positive impact on their lives personally the fourth lesson that we learned is that agile government is critically important to the responsible development of artificial intelligence over the course of the development of the AI report we learned a lot of things but this was perhaps the most salient there are many areas where it doesn't seem like government has direct influence over AI as it's related to governance issues but this is actually not the case today the government's making policy decisions about AI that actually impact the way that this technology is developed and will be used in every everyday circumstances like people like me and you and there's no area where this is more relevant than in intelligent transportation which is an area that my policy portfolio focuses intently upon last month we had US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx come in and talk to us about intelligent transportation platforms and when asked how many questions he had received over the course of his confirmation hearing on either automated vehicles or drones the answer he gave was zero and that was three years ago in 2013 this highlights the critical importance that policymakers keep in mind the current state of technology and keep up with the pace of it in developing policy and regulatory issues related to it neither issue was on the map he said my concern has been that we're moving into the Jetsons era but we have a flint we have Flintstone approaches to authority and regulation and we can't go the distance with this until we really think about things differently transportation policy is something we took a deep look at when we were writing the administration's AI report and there are several reasons for it the first is that transportation affects everybody if you ever drive in a car or have written an aircraft get from point A to point B if you are an owner or operator of one of the seven million drones projected to be in US airspace by 2020 this policy area affects you when we were developing the AI report one of the biggest lessons as I mentioned was that we keep in mind the pace of Technology automated vehicles have the potential to save almost all the 35,000 deaths caused a year by traffic accidents and to totally transform the way that we organize our communities and allocate our time autonomous aircraft systems are already changing the ways in which we observe and conserve our environment helping us save lives and inspect critical infrastructure it's increasingly important as technology helps enable these critical social changes that we help enable it equally from the perspective of the government I want to end with a focus on one critical question which informs everything that we do it's scrawled on a whiteboard in our office actually and that question is how does they're going to keep the future in the present tense at the beginning of this talk I spoke of the notion of radical collaboration which existed between policymakers and the public community that we are affecting and I want to underscore how critical it is that policymaking remains a team-building process that means that everyone has to have a seat at the table it's more than just bureaucratic optimism that I'm saying this we literally cannot do it without you we need academia industry and experts in a variety of different communities to step up and provide leadership and educating the American public and the next generation of innovators about the importance of AI for good we need the advocacy community the media and people from a wider range of other backgrounds to hold developers accountable to AI systems so that they responsibly represent the needs of a diverse variety of populations we need more woman and underrepresented to STEM fields and the AI disciplines and we need more people to reflect more often about how these technologies impact policymaking on a regular basis we need all of you artificial intelligence has incredible potential if only we all work together to unlock it now more than ever before we need people from all backgrounds and all disciplines to show up engage with each other in with their government and help us craft a more inclusive forward-leaning future which helps move us all in the right direction thank you [Applause]

3 thoughts on “The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Society | Terah Lyons | TEDxBeaconStreet

  • its really easy to tell if you are not in that Situation… have you ever think putting yourself in that Specific situation that AI wants to manipulate the decisions of your LIFE. EMPATHY is much BaDLY needed in this GENERATION.

  • A lot of people who believe they understand AI really have no understanding of it at all. So many people get all of their information from sci fi movies and transhumanist sources and end up with an inflated opinion of the current state of AI. Others might have done some traditional programming without any exposure to machine learning and have a massively understated opinion of where AI is today.

  • Good talk! I really hope this amazing person still has a job at the white house. Strong A.I. will be the last invention humans will ever need to create.

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