News from AAAI FSS-17

This year’s Fall Symposium Series (November 9-11) provided updates and insights on advances in research and technology, including resources for discussion of AI policy issues.  The symposia addressed topics in human-robot interaction, cognitive assistance in government and public sectors, military applications, human-robot collaboration, and a standard model of the mind. An important theme for public policy was the advances and questions on human-AI collaboration.

The cognitive assistance sessions this year focused on government and public sector applications, particularly autonomous systems, healthcare, and education. Human-technology collaboration advances involved discussions of issues relevant to public policy, including privacy and algorithmic transparency. The increasing mix of AI with humans in ubiquitous public and private systems was the subject of discussions about new technological developments and the need for understanding and anticipating challenges for communication and collaboration. Particular issues were on jobs and de-skilling of the workforce, credit and blame when AI applications work or fail, and the role of humans with autonomous systems.

IBM’s Jim Spohrer made an outstanding presentation “A Look Toward the Future”, incorporating his rich experience and current work on anticipated impacts of new technology. His slides are well worth studying, especially for the role of hardware in game-changing technologies with likely milestones every ten years through 2045. Radical developments in technology would challenge public policy in ways that are difficult to imagine, but current policymakers and the AI community need to try.

Particular takeaways, and anticipated subjects for future blogs, are about the importance of likely far-reaching research and applications on public policy. The degree and nature of cognitive collaboration with machines, the future of jobs, new demands on educational systems as cognitive assistance becomes deep and pervasive, and the anticipated radical changes in AI capabilities put the challenges to public policy in a new perspective. AI researchers and developers need to partner with social scientists to anticipate communication and societal issues as human-machine collaboration accelerates, both in system development teams and in the new workforce.

Some recommended topics for thinking about AI technology and policy are the following:
Jim Spohrer’s slideshare
Noriko Arai’s TED talk on Todai Robot
Humans, Robotics, and the Future of Manufacturing
New education systems and the future of work
Computing education: Coding vs. learning to use systems
Smart phone app “Seeing AI
AAAI for information related to science policy issues.

Public Policy Opportunities

USACM Council
The membership of USACM will be voting soon to elect at-large representatives to the USACM Council, with terms starting January 1st. At-large Council members whose terms expire this December 31st are Jean Camp, Simson Garfinkel, and Jonathan Smith. If you are a member of USACM and are interested in serving on USACM Council, please contact a member of the nominations committee. If there is someone is in line with what you think USACM should be doing, then please nominate that person. Only those who have been USACM members for at least one year as of January 1, 2018, are eligible. The deadline for having a slate of candidates is November 13th.

ACM Policy Award
Consider nominating someone for this award, which is made in alternate years and the initial one is yet to be made because insufficient nominations were received the first time around. “The ACM Policy Award was established in 2014 to recognize an individual or small group that had a significant positive impact on the formation or execution of public policy affecting computing or the computing community. This can be for education, service, or leadership in a technology position; for establishing an innovative program in policy education or advice; for building the community or community resources in technology policy; or other notable policy activity. The award is accompanied by a $10,000 prize.” Further information and instructions are available at
The award can recognize one or more of the following:
– Contributions to policy while working in a policy position
– Distinguished service on and contributions to policy issues
– Advanced scholarly work that has impacted policy
The deadline for nominations is January 15, 2018.

Missed Opportunities — Federal Science Policy Offices
I reached out to people who might know of prospects for the current Administration to make important policy position appointments.
Not much to report:
1. The Administration has yet to nominate a Director for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). OSTP director traditionally serves as the president’s science adviser.
2. Office of the Chief Technology Officer is also vacant. In the past, the CTO team helps shape Federal policies, initiatives, capacity, and investments that support the mission of harnessing the power of technology. They have also worked to anticipate and guard against the consequences that can accompany new discoveries and technologies.
3. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientist nominee, Sam Clovis, recently withdrew his name from consideration. Clovis is a climate change denier with no training in science, food, or agriculture. For months, scientists, activists, and a broad coalition of groups have come together to demand that the Senate reject his nomination.

AAAS Policy News
For timely and objective information on current science and technology issues and assistance in understanding Federal science policy, check with the AAAS Office of Government Relations at
and the AAAS Policy and Public Statements at