SIGAI Statement on New Federal Policies

Draft Statement by ACM SIGAI

The SIGAI shares the concerns of its parent organization ACM about the implications of recent executive orders and statements by President Trump and his administration. We request that the administration’s current and future actions not negatively affect members of the scientific community and their work. We encourage SIGAI members to choose actions that suit their individual positions on potential threats to the conduct of scientific work and on actions that may impede the AI community from pursuing and communicating scientific work. We recommend joining actions within ACM and those of other scientific organizations such as AAAS  We request that SIGAI members share their efforts and experiences and welcome all input and feedback at https://sigai.acm.org/aimatters/blog.

In this post, we suggest opportunities to act upon our concerns:

The March for Science on April 22nd is planned to demonstrate our passion for science and to call for support and safeguards for the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists.

The AAAS is calling on scientists to Be The Force For Science. They say, “The Trump Administration’s proposed budget would cripple the science and technology enterprise through short-sighted cuts to discovery science programs and critical mission agencies alike.”

 

SIGAI Science Policy Statement Discussion

With the events of the past several months, the officers are interested in making SIGAI’s own statement about the immediate and long term future of AI, technology, and science in the United States. The travel ban was just the first of issues that are likely to unfold and that may impede the AI community from pursuing and communicating scientific work. Other areas of immediate concern include appointments to the administration’s science positions, such as the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy, and now the looming budget cuts for non-defense spending. Depending on how AI is framed to the administration, we could be negatively impacted if, for example, AI R&D appear to be threatening jobs.

In this blog, we encourage a thorough discussion of a possible statement by SIGAI. Included in this post are ones by other groups and a draft statement to get our discussion started.

Please give your feedback as Comments to this blog post and by sending your thoughts to Larry Medsker at LRM@gwu.edu.

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DRAFT       Statement by ACM SIGAI       DRAFT

The SIGAI shares the concerns of their parent organization, ACM, about the implications of recent executive orders and statements by President Trump and his administration. We request that current and future actions will not negatively affect members of the scientific community and their work.
We encourage SIGAI members to choose actions that suit their individual positions on potential threats to the conduct of scientific work and on actions that may impede the AI community from pursuing and communicating scientific work. We recommend joining avenues within ACM and the action plans of other scientific organizations such as AAAS and the March for Science on April 22.
We request that SIGAI members share their efforts and experiences and welcome all input and feedback at https://sigai.acm.org/aimatters/blog.

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Statements by Other Groups

ACM Statement

“The Association for Computing Machinery, a global scientific and educational organization representing the computing community, expresses concern over US President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order imposing suspension of visas to nationals of seven countries.

“The open exchange of ideas and the freedom of thought and expression are central to the aims and goals of ACM. ACM supports the statute of International Council for Science in that the free and responsible practice of science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. Such practice, in all its aspects, requires freedom of movement, association, expression and communication for scientists. All individuals are entitled to participate in any ACM activity.”

SIGARCH Statement

“The SIGARCH executive committee shares the concerns of its parent organization, ACM, about the implications of the USA president’s executive order restricting entry of certain foreign nationals to the USA. These restrictions will not only affect scientists and members of our community who live outside of the USA, but they also impact the ability of many within the USA, in particular students, to travel. SIGARCH does not believe in, nor does it endorse, discrimination based on race, gender, faith, nationality or culture and is fully committed to its mission in spite of these restrictions. SIGARCH will be working on policies to best address this situation. Meanwhile, we strongly encourage all our sponsored events to provide support (e.g., technologies for remote participation) to maximize inclusive participation of our broader scientific community worldwide. Proposals for financial support towards this end should be submitted to the SIGARCH treasurer and will be considered on a case by case basis. We encourage event organizers to share their efforts and experiences and welcome all input and feedback at infodir_SIGARCH@acm.org.”

AAAS Statement

Scientific progress depends on openness, transparency, and the free flow of ideas. The United States has always attracted and benefited from international scientific talent because of these principles.

“The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general science society, has consistently encouraged international cooperation between scientists. We know that fostering safe and responsible conduct of research is essential for scientific advancement, national prosperity, and international security. Therefore, the detaining of students and scientists that have already been screened, processed, and approved to receive a visa to visit the United States is contrary to the spirit of science to pursue scholarly and professional interests. In order for science and the economy to prosper, students and scientists must be free to study and work with colleagues in other countries.

“The January 27, 2017 White House executive order on visas and immigration will discourage many of the best and brightest international students, scholars, and scientists from studying and working in the United States, or attending academic and scientific conferences. Implementation of this policy compromises the United States’ ability to attract international scientific talent and maintain scientific and economic leadership. It is in our national interest to take a balanced approach to immigration that protects national security interests and advances our scientific leadership.

“After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, as restrictions on immigration and foreign national travel were put in place to safeguard our national security, AAAS and other organizations worked closely with the Bush administration to advise on a balanced approach. We strongly recommend a similar discussion with officials in the Trump administration.”

AI and Future Employment

Erik Brynjolfsson is an economist at MIT and co-author, with Andrew McAfee, of The Second Machine Age, a book that asks “what jobs will be left once software has perfected the art of driving cars, translating speech, and other tasks once considered the domain of humans.” The rapidly emerging fields of AI and data science, spawned by the ubiquitous role of data in our society, is producing tools and methods that surpass human ability to manage and analyze data.
You can often hear people say that, just like other technological revolutions, new jobs will be created to replace the old ones. But is this just a rationalization? Maybe the rate of technological change is of a different order in the Information and Big Data age compared to the industrial revolution. A more optimistic outcome than automation leading to mass unemployment is to see these technologies as tools that will allow people to achieve more; for example, working together with cognitive assistants.
So, which way will it be?
For AI and data science professionals, don’t we have a responsibility to use and seek data-based evidence to support our positions on the impact of data science and AI on future employment? Can we find and analyze data on what happens to actual workers being replaced over the past five years? Some researchers estimate that 50 percent of total US employment is in the high-risk category, meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable. In the first wave, they predict that most workers in transportation and logistics occupations, together with the bulk of office and administrative support workers, and labor in production occupations are likely to be substituted by smart-computer capital.

Policy Matters
Policymaking will no doubt lag behind the technology. Now is the time to discuss and advocate policies that address (1) innovating our education systems, (2) redefining employment, and (3) investigating alternate economic systems.

Your thoughts?

Kim-Mai Cutler Interview with Jack Clark

Kim-Mai Cutler at Initialized Capital interviewed Jack Clark of OpenAI about The Public Policy Implications of Artificial Intelligence. Some of the issues are important to discuss in the AI Matters policy thread. Particularly, the need for AI policy and regulations that anticipate:
Cognitive assistance
Productivity, distribution of technology, and the exacerbation of inequality
Mobility and the need for lifelong learning
Strategic funding for AI research
AI technology and net loss vs net increase in jobs

Interested to hear your ideas and reactions to the interview!

Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030

The Stanford One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence includes issues we should discuss.  For example, in their study they remind that “Currently in the United States, at least sixteen separate agencies govern sectors of the economy related to AI technologies. Rapid advances in AI research and, especially, its applications require experts in these sectors to develop new concepts and metaphors for law and policy. Who is responsible when a self-driven car crashes or an intelligent medical device fails? How can AI applications be prevented from promulgating racial discrimination or financial cheating? Who should reap the gains of efficiencies enabled by AI technologies and what protections should be afforded to people whose skills are rendered obsolete? As people integrate AI more broadly and deeply into industrial processes and consumer products, best practices need to be spread, and regulatory regimes adapted.”

Learn more from Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030 —  One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence, Report of the 2015-2016 Study Panel, Stanford University, Stanford, CA,  September 2016. https://ai100.stanford.edu/2016-report

Ideas for the Next Administration

VentureBeat has a set of interesting articles including
Matt Bencke’s  suggestions about AI for the next administration. He says, “Every White House leadership change causes speculation about what pre-existing initiatives the incoming administration will embrace or eliminate. I encourage President-elect Trump and his appointees to start their term ready to ensure that artificial intelligence (AI) gives our economy the competitive edge it needs.”
Other contributions are on AI and healthcare, bot startups, and more.
Several issues are raised about AI policy.

 

Transition Matters

Some new resources are available to help with the transition to a new administration. We need to get involved for AI matters.

Insights into Trump Administration science policy: https://www.aaas.org/election-transition/trump-administration

Positions:
https://www.aaas.org/election-transition/positions-statements

Resources:
https://www.aaas.org/election-transition/science-community-resources

AAAS Editorial:
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2016/11/16/science.aal4180

ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest on the Responsible Use of AI Technologies

Update: The submission site for essays is https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=sigaiethics2017 – rather than submission by email. The submission deadline has been extended to March 31, 2017.

The ACM Special Interest Group on Artificial Intelligence (ACM SIGAI) supports the development and responsible application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies. An increasing number of AI technologies now affect our lives (or soon will), from intelligent assistants to self driving cars. As a result, AI technologies are often in the news and a number of organizations (including the U.S. government) are trying to ensure that AI technologies are being used for the maximum benefit of society. As with all potentially transformative technologies (such as the automobile and the transistor), there is some uncertainty about exactly how the future will look like and how it should best be shaped to harness the power of AI technologies while avoiding any drawbacks or misuses. Googling “Artificial Intelligence,” for example, reveals a lot of interesting recent headlines and opinions about AI technologies. Here are some of them:

  • Facebook touts AI benefits as job risks loom
  • The pros and cons of using a robot as an investment adviser
  • Robots can kill and deliver beer. Do we need humans?
  • As Artificial Intelligence evolves, so does its criminal potential
  • Should your driverless car hit a pedestrian to save your life?

ACM SIGAI is in a unique position to shape the conversation around these and related issues. ACM SIGAI is interested in obtaining input from students worldwide to help shape this debate. We therefore invite all student members to enter an essay in the ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest, to be published in the ACM SIGAI newsletter “AI Matters,” answering the following questions while providing supporting evidence:

What do you see as the 1-2 most pressing ethical, social or regulatory issues with respect to AI technologies? What position or steps can governments, industries or organizations (including ACM SIGAI) take to address these issues or shape the discussions on them?

All sources must be cited but we are not interested in summaries of the opinions of others. Rather, we are interested in the informed opinions of the authors. Writing an essay on this topic requires some background knowledge. Possible starting points for acquiring such background knowledge are:

ACM and ACM SIGAI

ACM brings together computing educators, researchers, and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources, and address the field’s challenges. As the world’s largest computing society, ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM’s reach extends to every part of the globe, with more than half of its 100,000 members residing outside the U.S.  Its growing membership has led to Councils in Europe, India, and China, fostering networking opportunities that strengthen ties within and across countries and technical communities. Their actions enhance ACM’s ability to raise awareness of computing’s important technical, educational, and social issues around the world. See https://www.acm.org/ for more information.

ACM SIGAI brings together academic and industrial researchers, practitioners, software developers, end users, and students who are interested in AI. It promotes and supports the growth and application of AI principles and techniques throughout computing, sponsors or co-sponsors AI-related conferences, organizes the Career Network and Conference for early-stage AI researchers, sponsors recognized AI awards, supports AI journals, provides scholarships to its student members to attend conferences, and promotes AI education and publications through various forums and the ACM digital library. See https://sigai.acm.org/ for more information.

Format and Eligibility

The ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest is open to all ACM SIGAI student members at the time of submission.  (If you are a student but not an ACM SIGAI member, you can join ACM SIGAI before submission for just USD 11 at https://goo.gl/6kifV9 by selecting Option 1, even if you are not an ACM member.) Essays can be authored by one or more ACM SIGAI student members but each ACM SIGAI student member can (co-)author only one essay. Essays should be submitted as pdf documents of any style with at most 5,000 words via EasyChair at https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=sigaiethics2017. The deadline for submissions is 11:59pm on March 1, 2017 (UTC-12). The authors certify with their submissions that they have followed the ACM publication policies on “Author Representations,” “Plagiarism” and “Criteria for Authorship” (http://www.acm.org/publications/policies/). They also certify with their submissions that they will transfer the copyright of winning essays to ACM.

Judges and Judging Criteria

Entries will be judged by a panel of leading AI researchers and ACM SIGAI officers. Winning essays should argue, convincingly, why the proposed issues are pressing (that is, of current concern), why the issues concern AI technology, and what position or steps governments, industries or organizations (including ACM SIGAI) can take to address the issues or shape the discussion on them. Winning essays will be selected based on depth of insight, creativity, technical merit and novelty of argument. All decisions by the judges are final.

Prizes

All winning essays will be published in the ACM SIGAI newsletter “AI Matters.” ACM SIGAI provides five monetary awards of USD 500 each as well as 45-minute skype sessions with the following AI researchers:

  • Murray Campbell (Senior Manager, IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center) 
  • Eric Horvitz (Managing Director, Microsoft Research) 
  • Peter Norvig (Director of Research, Google) 
  • Stuart Russell (Professor, University of California at Berkeley) 
  • Michael Wooldridge (Head of the Department of Computer Science, University of Oxford)

One award is given per winning essay. Authors or teams of authors of winning essays will pick (in a preselected random order) an available skype session or one of the monetary awards until all skype sessions and monetary awards have been claimed. ACM SIGAI reserves the right to substitute a skype session with a different AI researcher or a monetary award for a skype session in case an AI researcher becomes unexpectedly unavailable. Some prizes might not be awarded in case the number of high-quality submissions is smaller than the number of prizes.

Flyer

You can download this announcement in pdf format.

Questions?

In case of questions, please first check the ACM SIGAI blog for announcements and clarifications: https://sigai.acm.org/aimatters/blog/. You can also contact the ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest Organizers at sigai@member.acm.org.

  • Nicholas Mattei (IBM)
  • Albert Xin Jiang (Trinity University), ACM SIGAI Education Officer

ACM SIGAI Student Essay Contest Organizers

with involvement from

  • Sven Koenig (University of Southern California), ACM SIGAI Chair
  • Sanmay Das (Washington University in St. Louis), ACM SIGAI Vice Chair
  • Rosemary Paradis (Leidos), ACM SIGAI Secretary/Treasurer
  • Eric Eaton (University of Pennsylvania), ACM SIGAI AI Matters Editor-in-Chief
  • Katherine Guo (Lockheed Martin), ACM SIGAI Membership Officer
  • Benjamin Kuipers (University of Michigan), ACM SIGAI Ethics Officer
  • Amy McGovern (University of Oklahoma), ACM SIGAI AI Matters Editor-in Chief
  • Larry Medsker (George Washington University), ACM SIGAI Public Policy Officer
  • Todd Neller (Gettysburg College), ACM SIGAI Education Officer
  • Plamen Petrov (IBM), ACM SIGAI Industry Liaison Officer
  • Michael Rovatsos (University of Edinburgh), ACM SIGAI Conference Officer
  • David Stork (Rambus Labs), ACM SIGAI Award Officer

An Interview with Jim Kurose

Interviewed by Amy McGovern and Eric Eaton, co-editors for AI Matters

Abstract

Our second profile for the interview series is Jim Kurose, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE).  Please note that NSF is hiring and would love to have you apply!

Jim Kurose

kurose-short-bio

Dr. Jim Kurose is an Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF), where he leads the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) in its mission to support fundamental CISE research, education and transformative advances in cyberinfrastructure across the nation.  He is currently a Distinguished Professor in the College of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he has been a faculty member since receiving his PhD in Computer Science from Columbia University. His research area is computer networking, but he did manage to pass a PhD qualifying exam in AI.  He is proud to have received a number of research, teaching and service awards over the years, and is particularly proud of the many students with whom he’s been so fortunate to work.  With Keith Ross, he is the author of the widely adopted textbook Computer Networking: a Top Down Approach.  Jim is a Fellow of the ACM and IEEE.

How did you become interested in CS?

My undergraduate degree is in Physics (from Wesleyan University), which didn’t have a program in CS at the time.  But I took the only two CS courses offered – and loved them both; I worked in the computing center, and had a student job that involved analyzing the various plays run by Wesleyan’s football opponents (definitely “small data”!).  Probably most importantly, I did some Monte Carlo modeling that complemented the experimental part of my undergrad thesis.  I loved physics, but I also had a sense that I’d love computer science, and so I went to grad school expecting to get a MS degree in CS.  There, I fell in love with CS research when I met a couple of great faculty who became my PhD advisors.

What was your most difficult professional decision and why?

The hardest decisions are always the ones that affect other people.  When there are decisions that run contrary to what a person wants (e.g., passing a PhD qualifying exam), you really need to believe that the decision is in that person’s best interests.  The people we work with are always so talented that the challenge is really one of helping find the environment in which a given individual will thrive, be happy, and grow.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Without a doubt – the students I’ve taught and mentored – that includes nearly 30 PhD students, and many, many MS and undergrad students.  It’s really a privilege to have a job that can impact others.  There’s nothing that makes a day (or a week!) like getting a note from a former student and hearing that you’ve helped make a difference in that person’s life.  In second place is the undergraduate textbook (Computer Networking, a Top-Down Approach) that I’ve written with Keith Ross – we wrote that because we both love to write and teach, and have been incredibly pleased (and perhaps a bit shocked!) to see how it has been adopted at so many universities around the world.  I am also very proud and honored to be able to serve the CS community in my current position as Assistant Director at the National Science Foundation, where I lead the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering.

What do you wish you had known as a Ph.D. student or early researcher?

Hey – great question!  I’ve given a talk on exactly that topic: “Ten pieces of advice I wished my advisor had told me”.  I’ve given this talk at a bunch of student workshops in my research area over the years.  Among my favorites in that list are learning how to communicate (write, speak, and tell the narrative of your work), finding role models, and studying broadly.

What would you have chosen as your career if you hadn’t gone into CS?

Impossible to say!  I think there’s a surprising degree of randomness in where we end up, and how we get there.  As the saying goes “What a long strange trip it’s been!”  As I mentioned, I didn’t go to grad school planning to get a PhD — but my grad school experience turned out to be phenomenal.  Nor did I really choose grad school from a particularly career-oriented point-of-view; I just wanted to be where my girlfriend (and now wife) wanted to be.  Both turned out great, but the lesson, I think, is to be open to opportunities and to follow your passion.  Sounds a bit trite, perhaps, but definitely true.

What is a “typical” day like for you?

No two days are alike in my job at NSF.  I spend lots of time working with the amazing CISE staff (program directors, division directors, and administrative team) on both current and future programs; I spend a lot of time interacting with staff from the other directorates at NSF – a real treat as well; and I also spend a good deal of time working with other Federal agencies.  Last, I really enjoy spending time in the CS community, at meetings and visiting campuses and hearing about the amazing things going on, as well as individual and institutional hopes, aspirations, and concerns.

What is the most interesting project you are currently involved with?

Pretty much all of the aspects of my job at NSF.  Let me add that CISE is always looking for smart, dedicated and talented folks from the research community who might be interested in serving a rotation as an NSF/CISE Program Director.  I’d encourage anyone interested to contact the relevant CISE division director or me –  we’ll be happy to tell you more about the opportunities.

How do you balance being involved in so many different aspects of the CS community?

We all depend on so many other people – as students, we depend on our teachers, staff, mentors and other students; as faculty, we depend on our students, colleagues and collaborators; in academic leadership, we depend on the people with whom we work to help make things happen.  For these many activities to be successful we need to rely on other people, and be reliable to those with whom we work; we really do achieve both more and better things by working together.  At NSF, it’s been great to work with Lynne Parker, NSF/CISE Division Director for Information and Intelligent Systems, and her team, who provide NSF’s technical vision, leadership and management of programs in AI and Information and Intelligent Systems more broadly.

What is your favorite CS or AI-related movie or book and why?

I can still remember being completely blown away as a kid when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey.  It was visually stunning, had the HAL 9000 computer (of course, I’d never even seen a computer then), and was wildly inscrutable to a twelve-year-old.  For CS/AI-related books, my favorites are anything written by Isaac Asimov, and Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson.  Beyond science fiction, I’ve just finished The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.  All of these books speak to the relationship between humans and technology – a topic of increasing importance for everyone.

 

AI Matters in the New Administration

At the recent AAAI 2016 Fall Symposium, we heard from two experts on the future of technology and policy in the field of cognitive assistance in government and public sector applications. Mark Maybury, Chief Security Officer at Mitre, spoke about the unprecedented rapid changes in AI technology applications and the prospects for good and bad impacts on society. Edward Felton, Deputy U.S. CTO in the Office of the Chief Technology Officer, reviewed recent and current initiatives including the impact of AI and cognitive assistants. CTO “helps shape Federal policies, initiatives, and investments that support the OSTP mission, while also working to anticipate and guard against the consequences that can accompany new discoveries and technologies.”

The discussion about unprecedented opportunities and challenges for AI public policy were exciting, and the symposium was also in the aftermath of an unprecedented presidential election. While not explicitly raised at the symposium, the near future of AI technology and policy was on people’s minds. In that spirit, your comments and insights about AI matters and policy issues as the next administration is being assembled are most welcome!

As a reminder, our goal is to post AI & Policy information on the 1st and 15th of each month.