Updated Feb 14, 2018 - Technology

Tech industry aims to reassure Congress on AI


Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The tech industry hopes to use a House committee hearing Wednesday to both educate Congress on the potential benefits of artificial intelligence while also downplaying many concerns as the work of science fiction.

Why it matters: AI is seen as one of the biggest opportunities in technology, and business in general, but the degree to which regulators embrace or oppose it could dictate the pace of innovation.

The details: In the first of three hearings, the House Subcommittee on Information Technology aims to better understand the current state of AI, barriers to adoption as well as how government might benefit from using the technology

Who's testifying: While tech giants like Google and Facebook are some of the biggest adopters of AI technology, the testimony Wednesday is coming from academics as well as representatives of Intel and Nvidia, two of the companies whose server chips are used to process AI.

The message: Ian Buck, who runs Nvidia's data center business, said his goal is to educate legislators about AI generally, to encourage research and to open legislators eyes to how various federal government entities might use the technology to, for example, speed drug discovery, eliminate waste and improve efficiency.

Both Buck and Intel's Amir Khosrowshahi also aim to counter the notion that AI need be some sort of "black box" saying the industry is on a path toward creating neural networks that can show their decision making process, allowing for corrections as needed.

"All of these things are being worked on fairly intensely not just in academia but also in enterprises and businesses," Khosrowshahi said. "I am very optimistic we are addressing this."

The subtext: The underlying message is that AI is nothing to be scared of. Buck plans to describe AI as little more than the latest evolution of modern statistics. Today's AI is OK for pattern recognition, but human-like intelligence is decades away.

Also implicit is a desire to keep regulation at a minimum.

"My message to Congress is this is a really remarkable time; Let the innovation proceed," Khosrowshahi said.

AI represents the "Biggest economic and technological revolution in our lifetime," Buck said. "The sooner we get started, the sooner we can reap the benefits."

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