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Every day, artificial intelligence gets closer to making fantasy reality. AI is now powering customer service robots at Lowes and controlling Mark Zuckerberg's home.
Even more profound are the advancements that still lie ahead. AI is spurring breakthroughs in health and science and making possible new defensive capabilities to deter military and security threats at home and abroad.
But we are also rapidly approaching a future where AI will decide whether you are stopped by police, or the length of a jail sentence, or whether you get a job—decisions with real consequences if the AI is biased or outright wrong. This future reality raises serious ethical and policy concerns that must be addressed head on.
This is the focus of Booz Allen’s response to a request for information issued by the White House in June 2016 for the pros, cons and anything in between when it comes to the burgeoning world of artificial intelligence. The Center for Democracy and Technology and the American College of Radiology were among the organizations to also respond to the RFI.
“At Booz Allen, we lay out an alternate future where advancements in AI are shaped by a set of guiding principles borrowed from human subject research.”
“AI is truly a grand experiment on all of humanity,” we write in our RFI. “Advances in AI will change our society and our world by revolutionizing how we live, work, and interact. It will touch every aspect of our lives. Like many experiments, AI offers unprecedented possibilities for human gain, but care must be made to avoid and minimize harm on the subjects of the experiment, namely ourselves and the most vulnerable among us.”
At Booz Allen, we lay out an alternate future where advancements in AI are shaped by a set of guiding principles borrowed from human subject research—beneficence, justice, and respect. We want to ensure that AI is beneficial, not harmful, to human welfare.
To that end, we are calling for an approach where ethics are not simply tacked on at the end, but rather drive the U.S. approach to this experimental new technology.
Media reports and Hollywood portrayals of so-called killer robots are creating unnecessary fear that risks sidetracking, if not derailing entirely, valuable R&D funding that could drive groundbreaking innovation. We need to have meaningful conversations around AI ethics and policy, not sensationalized media stories.
The business opportunity of AI is undeniable. One report predicts that worldwide AI revenue will grow from $644 million this year to $39 billion by 2025. Machine learning technology in finance, advertising, media and healthcare is driving much of that growth, according to analysts.
And at Booz Allen, we are talking more and more about machine intelligence because it’s a transformative technology that finally has the necessary technical components to take off, and it’s doing just that. Market forecasts indicate MI will represent a significant and growing segment of IT spending across the next decade. The MI market’s promise is evidenced by venture capitalists’ heavy investment in the field across the past two years.
But, as we stress in our RFI, the experimental nature of any new technology brings with it ethical, policy and privacy concerns that need to be carefully weighed. The U.S. has a chance to be a world leader in this regard—by doing no harm.