The Lede, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018
By David Royse
In the words of Nappy Roots, We’re gonna have a Good Day,
Reminder: Today is Valentine’s Day. Act accordingly. It’s also Ash Wednesday.
Welcome to tomorrow, today. Putting the new back in the news .
Looking for intelligence on AI
We’re just out here going about our lives, trying to do our jobs, enjoy our passions and hopefully trying to make the world a little bit better, solve some problems.
But every once in a while, you’ve got to deal with the political system. If you’re doing something that could affect lots of people, you occasionally have to go to the community at large and explain just what it is you’re building in that laboratory in the creepy old mansion up on the hill.
For information technology companies working on artificial intelligence, today is that time.
Congress wants to know what’s going on in AI.
The tech industry heads to Capitol Hill today primarily to help Congress understand what’s possible right now in artificial intelligence.
But it’s not as much fear of what American AI might be capable of that’s of concern to Congress. The primary fear is what we may not be capable of relative to other countries. Congress wants the tech industry to assure it that the United States isn’t about to be run over in this regard by other countries (OK, actually, country. China. They mean China, primarily.)
The chairman of the House Information Technology Subcommittee, Texas Republican Will Hurd, says Congress also has another interest – finding out how government can get in on this. It’s not just a better understanding of the status of AI they want, it’s understanding how the government can adopt AI.
The committee lists increased understanding of AI as a goal, but also says it wants to “discuss development, uses, barriers to adoption and potential challenges and advantages of government use of artificial intelligence.”
“Over the next three months, the IT Subcommittee will hear from industry professionals as well as government stakeholders with the goal of working together to keep the United States the world leader in artificial intelligence technology,” Hurd said in a subcommittee statement.
Witnesses today are Dr. Amir Khosrowshahi, VP of the AI group at Intel, Dr. Charles Isbell, a dean at Georgia Tech, Dr. Oren Etzioni, CEO at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and Dr. Ian Buck of NVIDIA.
Hurd probably has an interesting perspective on government use of AI. If anyone knows what the government is already doing in this regard it might be a former CIA officer. Hurd, a Texas A&M grad (gig ’em), spent about a decade as an undercover CIA officer in Asia and the Middle East.
It’s probably good for the tech industry that Hurd’s committee is looking to harness the power of algorithms, and doesn’t seem to be bent on “protecting” us from AI.
In the wake of the allegations about how algorithms worked in social media in the 2016 election (or didn’t work, depending on your perspective), there has been plenty of fear in the industry about government over-reacting with heavy regulation that could curtail useful development.
But Hurd seems less concerned with protecting us from AI than with harnessing its potential and keeping up with foreign competitors, who aren’t likely to hamper it.
Unfortunately, though probably not surprisingly, federal government has only recently started to get interested in AI at all. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell just last summer drafted legislation seeking to put together an expert panel to advise government on AI. (Cantwell also has a tech background – she worked for RealNetworks.) The Obama White House did do a report on preparing for the future of AI, but it came at the end of the administration and likely is just gathering web dust out there on the internet.
While much of the concern in terms of what the rest of the world is doing is directed squarely at China, it is worth noting that there are plenty of places that are solidly ahead of the United States on use (and acceptance) of many of these technologies.
The United Arab Emirates has a Cabinet-level government official just for AI, the Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. And a really good look at a country that is well ahead digitally (with some degree of AI involved) is this recent New Yorker story on “Estonia, the Digital Republic.”:
Axios’ Ina Fried this morning has a preview of some of the testimony today.
If you want more reading on the possibilities for harnessing the power of AI for good in government, Britain’s Centre for Public Impact is looking deeply at this and has a trove of thought-provoking research and commentary on the issue on its website.
Another fantastic resource if you feel the need to do some catch-up reading on AI is Harvard’s AI Initiative at the Kennedy School. The center says its mission is “to shape the global AI policy framework.”
On Why the Government Might Need to Catch Up on AI
While a subcommittee in Congress is just starting today to try to wrap its collective heads around AI, the robot world moves on.
As the basics are discussed in Washington, other government leaders from around the world were meeting with international organization officials and other experts and companies in Dubai over the last couple days at the World Government Summit to discuss the future of AI. The conference billed itself as a facilitator of “dialogues to shape the future of governments and lives of citizens worldwide.”
The big players in AI were there: IBM, Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon.
The bad news is that there are lots of other countries that seem more intent on culling benefits from AI for the betterment of their citizens’ lives.
The good news is that most of the world seems to be in the same place as the U.S. – with most people not directly involved in AI research kind of just waking up to the possibilities.
There was a mostly closed-door panel at the world summit about how to push global society down the path toward making human experience better through AI. One publication, Futurism, did get access to the meeting and has an interesting report, though it gives no sense that anything concrete actually came of it – it sounds like those in the meeting think there are still lots of countries where leaders still don’t know exactly where their own countries stand on AI implementation so far.
YOU’LL HEART THIS
For Valentine’s Day, I bring you the latest in news about our hearts.
ANOTHER REASON TO AVOID THE FLU
Had the flu within the last week? You may be more likely to have a heart attack this week. Researchers have long suspected a link between respiratory illness and heart attacks. A study published a couple weeks ago in the New England Journal of Medicine solidified that link. Researchers examined data on heart attack hospitalizations and found a huge spike in heart attacks in people one week after a positive test for influenza. NEJM
SEEK OUT THE QUIET PLACES
Noise could also increase your risk of a heart attack. Some seems to be worse than other noise. You don’t want to live right by an airport.
There’s no new original research in this area, but last week researchers published a very interesting review of the research to date on links between noisy environments and heart attacks in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
“Environmental noise is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction (heart attacks), heart failure, and stroke,” the study says. The studies found that night time noise in particular, increases levels of stress hormones that may damage blood vessels.
And get this: animals who were exposed to airplane noise showed changes in their artery tissues. “Analysis of aortic tissues from animals exposed to aircraft noise revealed changes in the expression of genes responsible for the regulation of vascular function, vascular remodeling, and cell death.” JACC
BETTER WAY OF DETECTING HEART ATTACKS
A new device the size of a USB stick could radically change how we detect heart attacks. It allows for a much quicker and simpler test to determine if a patient has had one. From CNN
OWNER OF A LONELY HEART? MUCH BETTER THAN AN OWNER OF A BROKEN HEART
And finally in Valentine’s Day heart news today, there is such a thing as a broken heart.
NOTES FROM THE AGE OF DISRUPTION:
See you later this spring
Americans say they’re giving up social media for Lent. Right. MarketWatch
The kids aren’t doing Facebook. Recode
Twitter is a lot of work. Too much, maybe. CNBC
Snap will give “influencers” audience data. CNBC
Top story: Happening Today
Arguments are being heard today in New York in a sweeping lawsuit challenging the administration’s marijuana policy by seeking to legalize pot under federal law. NYT
Medical marijuana is now for sale in Pennsylvania. York Daily Record
Detroit moratorium on new mmj licenses. Freep
ROAD WARRIORS, NEWS FOR COMMUTERS
Going to New York, Philly or DC later this week? Could be snow on the way. Plan accordingly.
USA Today has a list this week of the best airport food in the world. And get this – despite the fact that the newspaper is called USA TODAY not WORLD TODAY, not one single airport in their list of 15 is actually in the United States. If you want the best food, you’ll apparently have to fly to Asia (they got some sushi lovers at USA Today). No hot dogs on this list. There’s one North American airport, so if you’re flying to Toronto, you’re in luck.
Let’s make our own list. MAKE AMERICAN AIRPORT FOOD GREAT AGAIN
I’ll give it a couple days and compile a list. Tell me your favorite unique foods at airports, or just something that’s really, really good.
TRANSIT AND COMMUTING NEWS
The number of people who drive to work in Seattle has dropped dramatically. Nearly half of commuters there now take public transit. Curbed
Why is it so expensive to build urban rail systems in the US? CityLab
QUOTE OF THE DAY
A Valentine’s Day Thought for Today, which came to me after quoting a Yes song from my middle school years in a headline above.
“There’s no real reason to be lonely. Be yourself, give your free will a chance. You’ve got to work to succeed.”
Take us out, Yes