Last week, we had the opportunity to join a White House event inspired by the many discussions, initiatives, and guidance for developing responsible and secure artificial intelligence (AI). The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) hosted the AI Aspirations conference, with leaders from various federal agencies presenting rapid fire “aspirations” of how the government could leverage AI for transformative national capabilities.

Agencies detailed seven aspirations – from AI for weather prediction to incorporating AI into transportation safety systems – that demonstrated how agencies could develop and use AI to help support their missions. These presentations outlined their aspirations to leverage opportunities and mitigate potential risks associated with AI, and several highlighted the ways that AI can help secure critical infrastructure – like the energy grid.

The seven aspirations outline how AI could enhance federal agencies’ service delivery by:

  • Strengthening the electrical grid to mitigate rising cybersecurity breaches and security risks, support clean energy goals, and expand capacity demands.
  • Accelerating the adoption of new semiconductor manufacturing materials to address safety concerns, enhance chip performance, and bolster American industry competitiveness.
  • Lowering roadway fatalities through aggregating data and analytics on previous accidents to predict potential incidents and help improve transportation safety.
  • Providing advanced weather forecasting models for rapid response to weather emergencies, helping to save lives.
  • Implementing personalized education and instruction to meet individual student needs and transform fundamental barriers in the classroom.
  • Discovering, targeting, and developing new drugs and therapies at a rapid rate compared to past products.
  • Improving customer service for accessing healthcare, loans, social security benefits, and other federal resources.

Of course, we wouldn’t be sharing this if the event discussed the promise of AI – I think most agree that AI has the potential to help us achieve amazing things. The event paired enthusiasm regarding the transformative potential of AI with safeguarding against AI risks – national security threats, privacy concerns, and the sharing of personally identifiable information (PII) and sensitive data. The conference’s panel discussion highlighted concerns that applying AI across various contexts could expose risks to marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as impact ethical standards, human rights, equity, and democratic values.

During the panel discussion, several panelists highlighted the importance of:

  • Developing approaches for government data sharing to help respect user choice and provide constraints on data usage.
  • Democratizing access to AI.
  • Advancing public trust in AI.
  • Incorporating workers’ and stakeholders’ input on AI tools.

Along with presentations, the conference featured demonstrations of ongoing government projects utilizing AI, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Semantic Forensics (SemaFor) program, which aims to create novel semantic algorithms to defend against large-scale, automated disinformation attacks and falsified media that spread “deepfakes.”

Further, a demonstration from the National Eye Institute, Department of Energy, and Food & Drug Administration highlighted AI’s role in enhancing health outcomes through the analysis of optical coherence tomography (OCT) imagery, aiding in early disease diagnosis, health risk assessment, and treatment evaluation.  

As the White House continues its efforts to highlight the possibilities of safe, secure, and trustworthy AI utilization, it will be exciting to witness the evolution of these government agencies’ aspirations as well as working in partnership to see these shared goals come to life. “To build this future, we will need to do together what we can’t do separately,” OSTP Director Arati Prabhakar said.

Heather West & Grace O’Neill

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