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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Earlier this month, Ed Felten — a Princeton professor and former adviser to President Obama — chided an international audience of artificial intelligence experts packing a cavernous Montreal convention center.
Axios' Kaveh Waddell writes: As scientists in major fields have done for decades, AI experts are being prodded to step out of the lab, get political and help formulate how society confronts what they are creating.
Why it matters: It's important that the makers of AI are involved in the debate over the ultimate boundaries and uses of technologies that will transform how people live and work in the coming decades and beyond.
"It’s only fair that those whose lives we are going to change should have some say in how that change comes about. Decisions will be made. What is our role?"— Ed Felten, Princeton professor
What’s happening: Employees at Google, Microsoft and Amazon — all of them dominant AI developers — have signed petitions urging their companies to back away from contracts to provide AI software to defense and law enforcement agencies.
But as AI increasingly informs life-altering decisions in banking, defense and other areas, top figures in the field are marshaling researchers for political action. In Montreal for the NeurIPS conference, Felten banged the war drum.
Such momentum is slowly building.
This movement is being pushed along by nonprofits, including the Partnership on AI and OpenAI. The Center for a New American Security, a think tank, has convened back-room conversations between policymakers and researchers.
Photo: Kaveh Waddell/Axios
Bleeping and whirring through the aisles of a sporting goods store in downtown San Francisco, Tally — a tall, wheeled robot bristling with sensors — was doing what it promises: It was counting.
Kaveh writes: The bot, made by Simbe Robotics and trundling through a Decathlon store, uses its sensors to read electronic merchandise tags, twirling this way and that to pinpoint products.
The big picture: Robots have long helped to assemble cars and move products around enormous warehouses. But Tally is the latest in a slow bot invasion into increasingly visible spaces, like sidewalks, malls and restaurants.
On a recent Friday in San Francisco, Tally checked up on water-sport gear during its daily round of Decathlon’s only U.S. location.
"Our customers love Tally," Bogolea told Kaveh at Decathlon. Soon after, a pair of shoppers jumped when they turned around to notice Tally waiting to pass. "That’s creepy," one shopper said. "You guys should know that."
Photo: Waring Abbott/Getty
The number of U.S. manufacturing jobs is up from the trough of the financial crash, but they are still only back to where they were in 1941, when the population was less than half of today's.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Photo: Brad Barket/Getty
Corporate headquarters typically range from soulless cubicles to long white tables to corner offices with 180-degree views of the city. But Scholastic’s new New York office turns those images on their head, writes Axios' Erica Pandey.
Scholastic's space brings some of the most popular children’s books to life, reports Quartz's Anne Quito. From a floating Captain Underpants that appears to burst out of a wall to massive, adorable portraits of Clifford the Big Red Dog on every floor, the office is a museum of Scholastic’s greatest hits. “It also gives you so many more reasons to look up from your phone,” one employee said.