The AI ​​panel urges the US to hone its technical skills in the face of China’s rise to WWTI


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An artificial intelligence commission headed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt is calling on the US to improve its AI capabilities to counter China, including by tracking down “AI-enabled” weapons – something that Google itself does hesitates for ethical reasons.

Schmidt and current executives from Google, Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon are among the 15 members of the National Artificial Intelligence Security Commission that released its final report to Congress on Monday.

“To win in AI, we need more money, more talent and stronger leadership,” said Schmidt on Monday.

The report says that machines that “can sense, decide and act faster” than humans and with greater accuracy are used for military purposes – with or without the participation of the US and other democracies. It warns of the uncontrolled use of autonomous weapons, but speaks out against a global ban.

It also calls for “wise restrictions” on the use of AI tools like facial recognition, which can be used for mass surveillance.

“We need to develop technologies that preserve our Western values, but we need to be prepared for a world where not everyone does,” said Andrew Moore, Commissioner and Head of Google Cloud AI.

The group has the ear of top lawmakers from both parties, but has been criticized for involving many members who work for tech companies with large government contracts and are therefore much at stake in terms of federal regulations on emerging technologies.

The report calls for a “White House-led strategy” to counter AI-related threats, set standards for responsible use of smart machines, and promote research and development in the US to maintain the country’s technological advantage over China .

“We believe that we are a year or two ahead of China, not five or ten,” Schmidt told the Senate Armed Forces Committee last week. He made it clear on Monday that he was expressing his personal opinions and not necessarily those of the Commission.

It is not yet clear whether President Joe Biden’s administration will agree with the Commission’s approach. It is pending confirmation of a new director for the White House Science and Technology Policy Bureau, who has promoted Biden to a position at cabinet level.

“AI policy is usually very bipartisan,” said Michael Kratsios, who was US chief technology officer under President Donald Trump and who tried to pump more resources into AI development in all federal agencies. The biggest imperative, he said, is that “the next big AI technologies are being developed in the west”.

One big difference between the two administrations is likely to be the approach to building AI talent. The commission recommends a more open immigration policy than Trump advocates.

Congress formed the AI ​​panel in 2018 and appointed 12 of its 15 commissioners, the others were chosen by Trump’s defense and trade secretaries. A judge later forced the commission to make its meetings and records more accessible to the public after a civil liberties group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, challenged its secrecy.

It was headed by Schmidt, who was Google’s CEO and later chairman of the board of parent company Alphabet. Previously, he was involved in leading the Defense Innovation Board, which advises the Pentagon on new technologies.

This brought some conflict in 2018 when Google pulled out of Project Maven, a US military initiative that uses AI-based computer vision technology to analyze drone material in conflict areas. Responding to internal activism by employees, the company also promised not to use AI in weapon-related applications.

“I didn’t agree with the Google decisions on Maven,” Schmidt told the senators last week, calling this an “aberration” compared to the technology industry as a whole, where there are many companies that want to work with the military. He said AI and vision systems are particularly good at “looking for things” which the military spends a lot of time.

The commission also includes executives like Safra Catz, CEO of software giant Oracle, and Amazon’s new CEO Andy Jassy, ​​who currently heads the cloud computing division, as well as top AI experts at Microsoft and Google. All four companies have applied for federal cloud computing contracts. Microsoft and Google representatives, along with other members, approved the final report on Monday, but abstained from the section on government partnerships with the private sector.

The exclusion of human rights groups and simple technology experts from the Commission has led the group to more easily define this political issue as a “democracy versus authoritarianism” competition against China, while avoiding more difficult issues such as the use of AI technologies in the EU the US and Mexico, said Jack Poulson, a former Google researcher who now leads the industry watcher’s technical investigation.

“The nominal reason to have these tech CEOs on these committees is because they’re experts in technology. They are also acting in the interests of their companies, subject to shareholder requests, ”said Poulson. “They don’t want substantial regulation or antitrust enforcement.”

The government-industry partnership could be important for the U.S. and its allies to set standards for the responsible use of AI, said Megan Lamberth, a research fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

“AI has the potential to change not only the way the military wages war, but also the way economies work and how societies and people interact with one another,” said Lamberth. “If there is a leadership gap, another country will fill that gap.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement Monday that the commission had made useful recommendations, but it should have gone further now by introducing civil rights protections before intelligence and military AI systems on a large scale can be used.

The commission asked Congress to pass new laws requiring federal agencies to conduct human rights assessments on new AI systems being used by Americans. However, the mandatory surveillance limits sought by activists were not recommended.

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