OpenAI

A recent controversy erupted over OpenAI’s new version of their language model for generating well-written next words of text based on unsupervised analysis of large samples of writing. Their announcement and decision not to follow open-source practices raises interesting policy issues about regulation and self-regulation of AI products. OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company founded by Elon Musk and others, announced on February 14, 2019, that “We’ve trained a large-scale unsupervised language model which generates coherent paragraphs of text, achieves state-of-the-art performance on many language modeling benchmarks, and performs rudimentary reading comprehension, machine translation, question answering, and summarization—all without task-specific training.”

The reactions to the announcement followed from the decision behind the following statement in the release: “Due to our concerns about malicious applications of the technology, we are not releasing the trained model. As an experiment in responsible disclosure, we are instead releasing a much smaller model for researchers to experiment with, as well as a technical paper.

Examples of the many reactions are TechCrunch.com and Wired. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has an analysis of the manner of the release (letting journalists know first) and concludes, “when an otherwise respected research entity like OpenAI makes a unilateral decision to go against the trend of full release, it endangers the open publication norms that currently prevail in language understanding research.”

This issue is an example of previous ideas in our Public Policy blog about who, if anyone, should regulate AI developments and products that have potential negative impacts on society. Do we rely on self-regulation or require governmental regulations? What if the U.S. has regulations and other countries do not? Would a clearinghouse approach put profit-based pressure on developers and corporations? Can the open source movement be successful without regulatory assistance?

Call for Nominations

Editor-In-Chief ACM Transactions on Asian and Low-Resource Language Information Processing (TALLIP)

The term of the current Editor-in-Chief (EiC) of the ACM Trans. on Asian and Low-Resource Language Information Processing (TALLIP) is coming to an end, and the ACM Publications Board has set up a nominating committee to assist the Board in selecting the next EiC.  TALLIP was established in 2002 and has been experiencing steady growth, with 178 submissions received in 2017.

Nominations, including self nominations, are invited for a three-year term as TALLIP EiC, beginning on June 1, 2019.  The EiC appointment may be renewed at most one time. This is an entirely voluntary position, but ACM will provide appropriate administrative support.

Appointed by the ACM Publications Board, Editors-in-Chief (EiCs) of ACM journals are delegated full responsibility for the editorial management of the journal consistent with the journal’s charter and general ACM policies. The Board relies on EiCs to ensure that the content of the journal is of high quality and that the editorial review process is both timely and fair. He/she has final say on acceptance of papers, size of the Editorial Board, and appointment of Associate Editors. A complete list of responsibilities is found in the ACM Volunteer Editors Position Descriptions. Additional information can be found in the following documents:

Nominations should include a vita along with a brief statement of why the nominee should be considered. Self-nominations are encouraged, and should include a statement of the candidate’s vision for the future development of TALLIP. The deadline for submitting nominations is April 15, 2019, although nominations will continue to be accepted until the position is filled.

Please send all nominations to the nominating committee chair, Monojit Choudhury (monojitc@microsoft.com).

The search committee members are:

  • Monojit Choudhury (Microsoft Research, India), Chair
  • Kareem M. Darwish (Qatar Computing Research Institute, HBKU)
  • Tei-wei Kuo (National Taiwan University & Academia Sinica) EiC of ACM Transactions on Cyber-Physical Systems; Vice Chair, ACM SIGAPP
  • Helen Meng, (Chinese University of Hong Kong)
  • Taro Watanabe (Google Inc., Tokyo)
  • Holly Rushmeier (Yale University), ACM Publications Board Liaison

AI Hype Not

A recent item in Science|Business “Artificial intelligence nowhere near the real thing, says German AI chief”, by Éanna Kelly, gives policy-worthy warnings and ideas. “In his 20 years as head of Germany’s biggest AI research lab Wolfgang Wahlster has seen the tech hype machine splutter three times. As he hands over to a new CEO, he warns colleagues: ‘Don’t over-promise’.the computer scientist who has just ended a 20 year stint as CEO of the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence says that [warning] greatly underestimates the distance between AI and its human counterpart: ‘We’re years away from a game changer in the field. I always warn people, one should be a bit careful with what they claim. Every day you work on AI, you see the big gap between human intelligence and AI’, Wahlster told Science|Business.”

For AI policy, we should remember to look out for over promising, but we also need to be mindful of the time frame for making effective policy and be fully engaged now. Our effort importantly informs policymakers about the real opportunities to make AI successful.  A recent article in The Conversation by Ben Shneiderman “What alchemy and astrology can teach artificial intelligence researchers,” gives insightful information and advice on how to avoid being distracted away “… from where the real progress is already happening: in systems that enhance – rather than replace – human capabilities.” Shneiderman recommends that technology designers shift “from trying to replace or simulate human behavior in machines to building wildly successful applications that people love to use.”