One of the last topics to be addressed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in the US under President Barack Obama is a big one – artificial intelligence (AI) – and prescient given how big the impact of the modern world and globalisation have been in the election of Donald Trump. There are two reports on AI that the OSTP managed to publish by December 2016. The first, ‘Preparing for the future of artificial intelligence’, looks at existing and potential applications, and questions raised for society and public policy. The second report, ‘Artificial intelligence, automation, and the economy’ is a rapid follow-up and looks mostly at economic impacts of AI-driven automation.
The first report has a good overview of the various definitions of AI and its current state of development. Remarkable progress has been made on what is known as ‘narrow AI’, which addresses applications such as playing strategic games, language translation, self-driving vehicles, and image recognition. ‘General AI’ refers to a notional future AI system that exhibits apparently intelligent behaviour at least as advanced as a person across the full range of cognitive tasks, and is the stuff of dystopian visions of the future, but currently there is little here to trouble policymakers.
Applications of artificial intelligence have profound implications for societies. The US government and academics have been taking a close look.
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