March 9, 2020

No Really – What’s AI?

Filed under: Artificial Intelligence — @ 9th of March 2020, 19:30

Last week I was speaking on a panel about the “Use of AI for Cybersecurity” at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance (INSA) conference on “Building an AI Powered Intelligence Community”. It was fascinating to listen to some of the panels with people from the Hill talking about AI. I was specifically impressed with the really educated views on issues with AI, like data bias, ethical and privacy issues, bringing silicon valley software development processes to the DoD, etc. I feel like at least the panelists had a pretty good handle on some of the issues with AI.

The one point that I am still confused about is what all these people actually meant when they said “AI”; or how the “Government” defines AI.

I have been reading through a number of documents and reports from the US government, but almost all of them do not define what AI actually is. For example the American AI Initiative One Year Annual Report to the president doesn’t bother defining AI.

The Summary of the 2018 department of defense artificial intelligence strategy – Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity” defines AI as follows:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one such technological advance. AI refers to the ability of machines to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence – for example, recognizing patterns, learning from experience, drawing conclusions, making predictions, or taking action – whether digitally or as the smart software behind autonomous physical systems.

Seems to me that this definition could use some help. NIST on their AI page doesn’t have a definition front and center. And the documents I browsed through didn’t have one either.

The Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence defines AI as:

Sec. 9. Definitions. As used in this order: (a) the term “artificial intelligence” means the full extent of Federal investments in AI, to include: R&D of core AI techniques and technologies; AI prototype systems; application and adaptation of AI techniques; architectural and systems support for AI; and cyberinfrastructure, data sets, and standards for AI;

I would call this a circular definition? Or what do you call this? A non-definition? Maybe I have focused on the wrong documents? What about the definition of AI by the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). a group within the DoD? The JAIC Web site does not seem to have a definition, at least not one I could find.

One document that seems to get it is the Artificial Intelligence and National Security report, which has an entire section discussing the different aspects of AI and what they mean by the acronym.

In closing, if we have policy, legislative, or regulatory conversation, we must define what AI is. Otherwise we have conversations that go into the absolutely wrong directions. Does 5G fall under AI? How about NLP or automating the transcription of a conference presentation? If we don’t get clear, we will write legislation and put out bills that do not cover the technologies and approaches we actually want to govern but will put roadblocks into the path of innovation and the so fiercely sought after dominance in AI.

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