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Skynet or Ultron? The White House launches website on AI initiatives

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Mar 20, 2019

The current U.S. administration is really into the idea of artificial intelligence. There's already been the "American AI Initiative," which has federal agencies prioritizing it, and now there's a whole new offshoot of the official White House website devoted to all things AI. We're not talking about the film that starred Haley Joel Osment — these initiatives are based on the actual (yet artificial) thing.

A quick trip to the site reveals the banner "Artificial Intelligence for the American People." It covers the executive order, and then goes into different areas in which AI can help Americans — "Innovation," "Industry," and the "American Worker." The most curious area, however, is the fifth one, titled "AI with American Values."

This area of the site reads, "The United States has long been a champion and defender of the core values of freedom, guarantees of human rights, the rule of law, stability in our institutions, rights to privacy, respect for intellectual property, and opportunities to all to pursue their dreams." The passage then goes on to add, "The AI technologies we develop must also reflect these fundamental American values and our devotion to helping people."

In trying to create "understandable and trustworthy AI," the site states that "as new AI technologies are created, we must also increase our understanding of how AI systems derive solutions, and why they make the decisions they make."

It almost feels like the administration only wants AI created if we can understand it, which would mean that we might have to get pretty good at outsmarting computers. What kind of values did Skynet have? Ultron himself had values, but his way of fulfilling them meant wiping out humanity. Who exactly is going to be writing the "value" protocols for the AI, and how rigid will they be?

As per Engadget, the AI site does showcase some of the former administration's plans for the technology, but it also points out how mainstream the very idea (and importance) of AI has become. One thing that may make readers' blood run cold, though, is the following line, where the site notes that AI is "considered a competitive edge and might just play a crucial role in national defense."

And with that, we give you Skynet. Or Ultron, or the machines from The Matrix, take your pick.

Overreacting? Maybe. Wrong? We certainly hope so.


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