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White House: A.I. will be critical driver of U.S. economy

Sharon Gaudin | Oct. 13, 2016
Feds to play role in advancing STEM education, retraining workforce

The White House sees artificial intelligence as an increasingly critical technology that can fight cyberattacks, upgrade weapons of war, improve health care and even unclog traffic for the commute home.

However, the Obama administration also expects that A.I. will reduce low-level jobs and create security and ethical issues.

With critical pros and cons looming, the federal government wants to work with the private sector and academia to guide A.I. in a positive direction, according to a recently released report, Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence. The report was prepared by the National Science and Technology Council's subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

"A.I. can be a major driver of economic growth and social progress, if industry, civil society, government, and the public work together to support development of the technology, with thoughtful attention to its potential and to managing its risks," the report states.

"Government has several roles to play," it continues. "Developing and studying machine intelligence can help us better understand and appreciate our human intelligence. Used thoughtfully, A.I. can augment our intelligence, helping us chart a better and wiser path forward."

The report is getting attention today, the day before the White House Frontiers Conference being held Thursday at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh.

The conference, which will be hosted by President Barack Obama, is set to focus on the future of such technologies as A.I., machine learning, space exploration and robotics.

The White House report also states that A.I. has the potential to be a significant driver of economic growth in the U.S.

According to the National Science and Technology Council, A.I. already is benefiting society, citing as an example that Walter Reed Medical Center uses A.I. to better predict medical complications and improve combat wound treatment.

Artificial intelligence also is powering smart traffic management software that the White House says is reducing traffic jams and energy use. In some areas, the software also helped reduce auto emissions by as much as 25%.

The news wasn't all rosy. The White House report echoed others that have warned that advancing A.I. could take jobs away from American workers.

Last month, for example, Forrester Research said that robotics and A.I. could replace human workers in 6% of U.S. jobs by 2021.

In January, the World Economic Forum, in a report, said that smart systems could lead to the loss of 7 million jobs in the next several years.

However, like the White House report, the forum also said that A.I. is expected to add jobs that would be at a higher level than those expected to be lost. Many of those higher level jhobs would be in computer science, math and engineering.


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