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White House brings first AI workshop to UW

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Experts say human intelligence and artificial intelligence are likely to work together in the future, and that will pose a challenge for governments and legal system. (Credit: Christine Daniloff / MIT file)

Intelligent machines won’t be ruling the world anytime soon – but what happens when they turn you down for a loan, crash your car or discriminate against you because of your race or gender?

On one level, the answer is simple: “It depends,” says Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who specializes in the issues raised by autonomous vehicles.

But that opens the door to a far more complex legal debate. “It seems to me that ‘My Robot Did It’ is not an excuse,” says Oren Etzioni, CEO of the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, or AI2.

The rapidly rising challenges that face America’s legal system and policymakers were the focus of today’s first-ever White House public workshop on artificial intelligence, presented at the University of Washington School of Law. For a full afternoon, Smith, Etzioni and other experts debated the options in an auditorium that was filled to capacity.

White House deputy chief technology officer Ed Felten said today’s discussion will feed into an interagency policymaking process that includes a public report, due to be published later this year, and a request for information directed to the public.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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