Tech

White House says it will release government data to fuel AI research

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President Donald Trump’s top tech advisor said on Tuesday during an MIT robotics and AI conference panel that the US government will disclose any federal data that could further AI research.

“Anything we can do to figure that out, we will work very hard on,” said Michael Kratsios, Trump’s chief technology advisor, who holds the highest-ranking tech position in the administration, because Trump has yet to appoint an Office of Science and Technology head.

The announcement was surprising, mostly because AI and tech have been regarded with caution by the administration, especially with Trump’s outspoken rhetoric about the dangers of automation due to the job elimination potential.

It would conflict with the presidential agenda and the president’s voter base. And in fact, Kratsios was at the conference to speak on a panel about empowering the workforce.

Although he skirted direct queries of whether 45 supported AI, Kratsios did offer that “the White House has prioritized AI, and he [Trump] obviously runs the White House.”

Kratsios also highlighted how the government’s prioritization of AI includes bringing in foreign tech experts, which falls in line with the administration’s merit-based immigration plan with highly skilled immigrants.

And in coincidental timing, documents released by a Freedom of Information Act request surfaced shortly before Kratsios took the stage. The documents showed that after testing AI face recognition technology at the US-Mexico border in 2016, Customs and Border Protection will install a permanent AI face recognition camera dubbed the Vehicle Face System where the southern tip of Texas meets Mexico.

The Pentagon and Google also just settled a contract spat over whether the tech giant’s engineers had to develop AI technology for the military (Google’s employees, who did not want to participate in this research, won and are no longer working with the Pentagon).

These AI developments come on the tails of the White House AI summit last month, in which 100 tech stakeholders gathered to discuss its functions in US society. The high-profile guest list included experts from Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft.

Kratsios hinted about opening access to certain government data during the summit, but he did not say it as directly as he did during the conference panel. Though in both references, Kratsios did not give specifics of the information that would be released or who would receive access.

He also discussed a variety of other tech-related topics during the panel, including the size of the Office of Science and Technology. Trump downsized it by almost 50 percent, but Kratsios cited how although it was much smaller than former President Barack Obama’s office, theirs was comparable to staff sizes of previous administrations.

This administration’s ebb from further developing artificial intelligence also strays from other countries, though the White House’s AI Task Force is working to increase digital security.

It is unclear what their policies will be, considering that Google just released its AI guidelines, which include not using it for surveillance or autonomous weapons.

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