Categories
GeekWire

AI experts look beyond facial recognition ban

AI ethics panel
Cornell University information scientist Solon Barocas, at right, speaks during a panel discussion on the ethics of artificial intelligence at Seattle University, while Carnegie Mellon University’s David Danks and Google researcher Margaret Mitchell look on. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

San Francisco’s board of supervisors took a significant step this week when it voted to ban the use of facial recognition software for law enforcement purposes, but such measures by themselves won’t resolve the ethical issues surrounding surveillance enabled by artificial intelligence.

At least those are the first impressions from a trio of experts focusing on the social implications of AI’s rapid rise.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Ethics probe clears acting Pentagon chief

Patrick Shanahan
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks at an event presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Department of Defense Photo)

The Department of Defense’s Office of Inspector General says acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is in full compliance with his ethics agreements and official obligations — turning back allegations that he took actions to promote Boeing, his former employer, and disparage its competitors.

The findings of a weeks-long investigation, issued today, seem likely to clear what might have been an obstacle standing in the way of Shanahan taking on the Pentagon’s post on a permanent basis.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

How Microsoft is opening up AI’s ‘black box’

Erez Barak
Erez Barak, senior director of product for Microsoft’s AI Division, speaks at the Global Artificial Intelligence Conference in Seattle. (GeekWire Photo / Alan Boyle)

Artificial intelligence can work wonders, but often it works in mysterious ways.

Machine learning is based on the principle that a software program can analyze a huge set of data and fine-tune its algorithms to detect patterns and come up with solutions that humans may miss. That’s how Google DeepMind’s Alpha Go AI agent learned to play the ancient game of Go (and other games) well enough to beat expert players.

But if programmers and users can’t figure out how AI algorithms came up with their results, that black-box behavior can be a cause for concern. It may become impossible to judge whether AI agents have picked up unjustified biases or racial profiling from their data sets.

That’s why terms such as transparency, explainability and interpretability are playing an increasing role in the AI ethics debate.

The European Commission includes transparency and traceability among its requirements for AI systems, in line with the “right to explanation” laid out in data-protection laws. The French government already has committed to publishing the code that powers the algorithms it uses. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Technology Research and Investigation has been charged with providing guidance on algorithmic transparency.

Transparency figures in Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s “10 Laws of AI” as well — and Erez Barak, senior director of product for Microsoft’s AI Division, addressed the issue head-on today at the Global Artificial Intelligence Conference in Seattle.

“We believe that transparency is a key,” he said. “How many features did we consider? Did we consider just these five? Or did we consider 5,000 and choose these five?”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Microsoft to add AI ethics to product checklist

Harry Shum
Harry Shum is Microsoft’s executive vice president for AI and research. (GeekWire Photo)

Microsoft will “one day very soon” add an ethics review focusing on artificial-intelligence issues to its standard checklist of audits that precede the release of new products, according to Harry Shum, a top executive leading the company’s AI efforts.

AI ethics will join privacy, security and accessibility on the list, Shum said today at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital conference in San Francisco.

Shum, who is executive vice president of Microsoft’s AI and Research group, said companies involved in AI development “need to engineer responsibility into the very fabric of the technology.”

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Boeing bias? Acting Pentagon chief faces probe

Patrick Shanahan
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan speaks at an event presented by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Department of Defense Photo)

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who was a veteran Boeing executive before going to the Pentagon, is facing an ethics investigation amid complaints that he has been talking up his former employer and disparaging Boeing’s competitors.

The Defense Department’s Office of the Inspector General today acknowledged that it was looking into the complaints about actions that were “allegedly in violation of ethics rules.”

Shanahan, who spent much of his 31 years at Boeing managing commercial airplane programs, won Senate confirmation to become assistant defense secretary in 2017 and took over as acting defense secretary after James Mattis’ departure at the end of last year.

When Shanahan came to the Pentagon, he pledged to recuse himself from any matters involving Boeing. But in January, Politico quoted two unnamed former government officials as saying that he repeatedly praised Boeing and trashed Lockheed Martin during high-level internal meetings.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Human gene-editing experiment put on hold

He Jiankui
Chinese researcher He Jiankui addresses the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong. (National Academies via Twitter)

The Chinese researcher behind a controversial experiment to produce gene-edited children took the stage at a Hong Kong conference to explain his work, and acknowledged that the international outcry has brought a halt to the experiment.

“The clinical trial was paused due to the current situation,” He Jiankui, a biomedical researcher at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said today at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing.

The university says He (pronounced “Heh”) has been on unpaid leave since January, and today Chinese news outlets reported that his lab on campus has been shut down and sealed off for investigation.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Reports of gene-edited babies spawn investigations

CRISPR mechanism
CRISPR-Cas9 technology uses “molecular scissors” to cut and splice DNA. (UC-Berkeley Graphic)

Multiple investigations are being sought in the wake of reports that a Chinese laboratory facilitated the birth of twin girls whose genes had been edited to protect them against the HIV virus that causes AIDS.

The first-of-its-kind experiment, which took advantage of the CRISPR gene-editing technique, came to light in reports published late Sunday by MIT Technology Review and The Associated Press. The researcher in charge of the project, He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, also published a series of videos explaining the gene-editing project.

There has been no outside confirmation of He’s claims, but geneticists and health policymakers say such claims raise grave ethical issues — including the prospect of creating designer babies, enhancing traits and even introducing exotic new traits.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

Categories
GeekWire

Microsoft is turning down some sales over AI ethics

Eric Horvitz
Microsoft Research Lab’s Eric Horvitz speaks at Carnegie Mellon University. (CMU via YouTube)

Concerns over the potential abuse of artificial intelligence technology have led Microsoft to cut off significant sales, says Eric Horvitz, technical fellow and director at Microsoft Research Labs.

Horvitz laid out Microsoft’s commitment to AI ethics today during the Carnegie Mellon University – K&L Gates Conference on Ethics and AI, presented in Pittsburgh.

One of the key groups focusing on the issue at Microsoft is the Aether Committee, where “Aether” stands for AI and Ethics in Engineering and Research.

“It’s been an intensive effort … and I’m happy to say that this committee has teeth,” Horvitz said during his lecture.

He said the committee reviews how Microsoft’s AI technology could be used by its customers, and makes recommendations that go all the way up to senior leadership.

“Significant sales have been cut off,” Horvitz said. “And in other sales, various specific limitations were written down in terms of usage, including ‘may not use data-driven pattern recognition for use in face recognition or predictions of this type.’ ”

Get the full story on GeekWire.