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Artificial Intelligence

Contact Tracing App Can Assist in Reopening Localities Safely, According to AI Task Force Panelists

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Screenshot of infectious disease physician Dr. Krutika Kuppalli from the webcast

July 9, 2020 — In the absence of federal leadership, the number of coronavirus cases has continued to climb in the United States, reaching a new single-day record number of infections on Wednesday with 60,000 cases recorded in 24 hours, according to infectious disease physician Dr. Krutika Kuppalli.

In a Wednesday hearing, members of the House Financial Services Committee’s task force on artificial intelligence were joined by contact tracing experts to discuss the importance of exposure notification and contact tracing apps in fighting the ongoing pandemic.

While some questioned the usefulness of tracking apps, many fought for their importance in allowing localities to safely reopen.

Kuppali called for the U.S. to learn from the global community by developing a national plan led by science.

She criticized the existing “patchwork system,” in which every municipality and state is making its own decisions. This approach makes it very difficult to combat the spread of the disease, she said.

Kuppali outlined three common components of successful domestic plans, crucial in fighting the pandemic: the development of a comprehensive national plan led by science, the rapid scaling up of testing and the implementation of contact tracing apps.

“Until we have a vaccine, maintaining cases will rely on surveillance, testing, contact tracing and isolation,” she said.

“We are still having problems with isolation and contact tracing,” Kuppali added, expressing frustration with the lack of federal initiative and overall progress. “We have been having these problems for months.”

According to the panelists, two-thirds of Americans say they would not trust a contact tracing app developed by major tech companies or the federal government.

Current adoption rates of contact tracing apps in the United States are extremely low, which panelists attributed to the fact that downloading these apps is often presented as a tradeoff to civil liberties.

Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., emphasized the importance of trust in getting Americans on-board with tracing apps, noting that it is extremely critical that citizens understand how data is being used.

Two experts on the panel have already developed software which could assist in the reopening process while avoiding the sacrifice of individuals’ privacy.

Ryan McClendon, CEO and founder of the CVKey project, which aims to help communities reopen responsibly during the COVID-19 pandemic without compromising privacy, argued for the importance of using Bluetooth signals in tracing apps instead of GPS location data.

He maintained that the interface created by Apple and Google, which utilizes Bluetooth signals, could be extremely useful in countering the disease.

CVKey centralizes information for users, in an attempt to lessen the confusion caused by everchanging public health policies.

The app includes a symptom checker, clear guidelines on policies in the user’s area and a CVKey pass, which businesses can utilize to only allow low risk customers in.

Ramesh Raskar, MIT professor and founder of PathCheck, also argued for the worth of the Bluetooth tracking software created by Apple and Google.

PathCheck utilizes similar software, including a customizable mobile app and a production-ready exposure notification server based on the Google open source project.

Raskar argued that contact tracing apps can play a big role by allowing the country to track the spread of the disease cheaply, quickly and at scale.

He further contended that any app utilized should be built transparently and be open to scrutiny from the public.

McClendon said that local institutions, such as employers, universities and schools, play an important role in maximizing app adoption and so workplaces should be utilizing contact tracing to protect their workforce.

“We need 60 to 70 percent adoption for these apps to be useful,” said McClendon. “One of the best ways to do that is to work with local institutions — it is simply a marketing challenge.”

“Workplaces could become hot spots and shut down again, which people don’t like,” McClendon continued. “Preventing the shut down by keeping the communities safe is a strong argument for adoption, if we can communicate that message.”

Some panelists maintained doubt, saying that Americans are simply unlikely to adopt these apps.

“I can just tell you for a fact, my most rural counties are not going to utilize these apps,” said Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Ohio, adding that he doesn’t blame them.

The experts contended that this is the greatest modern threat the country has seen and that how legislators choose to manage this disease will be their legacy.

Especially as a nation that enjoys boasting of its tech dominance, Kuppali said, the U.S., should lead in the arena.

Artificial Intelligence

AI Should Compliment and Not Replace Humans, Says Stanford Expert

AI that strictly imitates human behavior can make workers superfluous and concentrate power in the hands of employers.

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Photo of Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, in January 2017 by Sandra Blaser used with permission

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2022 – Artificial intelligence should be developed primarily to augment the performance of, not replace, humans, said Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab, at a Wednesday web event hosted by the Brookings Institution.

AI that complements human efforts can increase wages by driving up worker productivity, Brynjolfsson argued. AI that strictly imitates human behavior, he said, can make workers superfluous – thereby lowering the demand for workers and concentrating economic and political power in the hands of employers – in this case the owners of the AI.

“Complementarity (AI) implies that people remain indispensable for value creation and retain bargaining power in labor markets and in political decision-making,” he wrote in an essay earlier this year.

What’s more, designing AI to mimic existing human behaviors limits innovation, Brynjolfsson argued Wednesday.

“If you are simply taking what’s already being done and using a machine to replace what the human’s doing, that puts an upper bound on how good you can get,” he said. “The bigger value comes from creating an entirely new thing that never existed before.”

Brynjolfsson argued that AI should be crafted to reflect desired societal outcomes. “The tools we have now are more powerful than any we had before, which almost by definition means we have more power to change the world, to shape the world in different ways,” he said.

The AI Bill of Rights

In October, the White House released a blueprint for an “AI Bill of Rights.” The document condemned algorithmic discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or age and emphasized the importance of user privacy. It also endorsed system transparency with users and suggested the use of human alternatives to AI when feasible.

To fully align with the blueprint’s standards, Russell Wald, policy director for Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, argued at a recent Brookings event that the nation must develop a larger AI workforce.

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Artificial Intelligence

Workforce Training Needed to Address Artificial Intelligence Bias, Researchers Suggest

Building on the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

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Russell Wald. Credit: Rod Searcey, Stanford Law School

WASHINGTON, October 24, 2022–To align with the newly released White House guide on artificial intelligence, Stanford University’s director of policy said at an October Brookings Institution event last week that there needs to be more social and technical workforce training to address artificial intelligence biases.

Released on October 4, the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights framework by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy is a guide for companies to follow five principles to ensure the protection of consumer rights from automated harm.

AI algorithms rely on learning the users behavior and disclosed information to customize services and advertising. Due to the nature of this process, algorithms carry the potential to send targeted information or enforce discriminatory eligibility practices based on race or class status, according to critics.

Risk mitigation, which prevents algorithm-based discrimination in AI technology is listed as an ‘expectation of an automated system’ under the “safe and effective systems” section of the White House framework.

Experts at the Brookings virtual event believe that workforce development is the starting point for professionals to learn how to identify risk and obtain the capacity to fulfill this need.

“We don’t have the talent available to do this type of investigative work,” Russell Wald, policy director for Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, said at the event.

“We just don’t have a trained workforce ready and so what we really need to do is. I think we should invest in the next generation now and start giving people tools and access and the ability to learn how to do this type of work.”

Nicol Turner-Lee, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, agreed with Wald, recommending sociologists, philosophers and technologists get involved in the process of AI programming to align with algorithmic discrimination protections – another core principle of the framework.

Core principles and protections suggested in this framework would require lawmakers to create new policies or include them in current safety requirements or civil rights laws. Each principle includes three sections on principles, automated systems and practice by government entities.

In July, Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center of George Mason University stated that he is “a little skeptical that we should create a regulatory AI structure,” and instead proposed educating workers on how to set best practices for risk management, calling it an “educational institution approach.”

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Artificial Intelligence

Deepfakes Pose National Security Threat, Private Sector Tackles Issue

Content manipulation can include misinformation from authoritarian governments.

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Photo of Dana Roa of Adobe, Paul Lekas of Global Policy (left to right)

WASHINGTON, July 20, 2022 – Content manipulation techniques known as deepfakes are concerning policy makers and forcing the public and private sectors to work together to tackle the problem, a Center for Democracy and Technology event heard on Wednesday.

A deepfake is a technical method of generating synthetic media in which a person’s likeness is inserted into a photograph or video in such a way that creates the illusion that they were actually there. Policymakers are concerned that deepfakes could pose a threat to the country’s national security as the technology is being increasingly offered to the general population.

Deepfake concerns that policymakers have identified, said participants at Wednesday’s event, include misinformation from authoritarian governments, faked compromising and abusive images, and illegal profiting from faked celebrity content.

“We should not and cannot have our guard down in the cyberspace,” said Representative John Katko, R-NY, ranking member of House Committee on homeland security.

Adobe pitches technology to identify deepfakes

Software company Adobe released an open-source toolkit to counter deepfake concerns earlier this month, said Dana Rao, executive vice president of Adobe. The companies’ Content Credentials feature is a technology developed over three years that tracks changes made to images, videos, and audio recordings.

Content Credentials is now an opt-in feature in the company’s photo editing software Photoshop that it says will help establish credibility for creators by adding “robust, tamper-evident provenance data about how a piece of content was produced, edited, and published,” read the announcement.

Adobe’s Connect Authenticity Initiative project is dedicated to addressing problems establishing trust after the damage caused by deepfakes. “Once we stop believing in true things, I don’t know how we are going to be able to function in society,” said Rao. “We have to believe in something.”

As part of its initiative, Adobe is working with the public sector in supporting the Deepfake Task Force Act, which was introduced in August of 2021. If adopted, the bill would establish a National Deepfake and Digital task force comprised of members from the private sector, public sector, and academia to address disinformation.

For now, said Cailin Crockett, senior advisor to the White House Gender Policy Council, it is important to educate the public on the threat of disinformation.

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