White House Announces Initiative Focused on Artificial Intelligence, Builds on Big Data Initiatives

This month, the White House announced a series of workshops and a working group to address the “benefits and risks” of artificial intelligence.  The workshops, which are to be held in Seattle, Washington, Pittsburgh, and New York City, will take place between May 24 and July 7, and are expected to result in a public report issued by the end of the year.  The workshops and report are expected to address familiar themes – “privacy, security, regulation, law, and research and development to be taken into account when effectively integrating this technology into both government and private-sector activities.”   Participation by all stakeholders – academia, industry, the research community, civil society, and others – will be key to shaping a report that is likely provide an initial roadmap for regulatory and policy initiatives in the next administration.

The announcement of the artificial intelligence initiative follows close and continued attention by the White House on emergent technology-related issues, most notably a series of reports and statements on Big Data.  In May 2014, a White House working group led by then-Counselor to the President John Podesta issued a landmark report, Big Data: Seizing Opportunities, Preserving Values, accompanied by a report issued by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.   In February 2015, the White House followed on the Podesta report, issuing an “interim progress report” which contained four recommendations loosely grouped into four overarching themes:

  1. Preserving Privacy Values;
  2. Responsible Educational Innovation in the Digital Age;
  3. Big Data and Discrimination; and
  4. Law Enforcement and Security.

Following up on the theme of Big Data and Discrimination, the White House this month issued a short report titled Big Data: A Report on Algorithmic Systems, Opportunity, and Civil Rights, tackling case studies in access to credit, employment, higher education, and criminal justice.