The White House on Thursday announced a series of measures to address the challenges of artificial intelligence, driven by the sudden popularity of tools such as ChatGPT and amid rising concerns about the technology’s potential risks for discrimination, misinformation and privacy.

The US government plans to introduce policies that shape how federal agencies procure and use AI systems, the White House said. The step could significantly influence the market for AI products and control how Americans interact with AI on government websites, at security checkpoints and in other settings.

The National Science Foundation will also spend $140 million to promote research and development in AI, the White House added. The funds will be used to create research centers that seek to apply AI to issues such as climate change, agriculture and public health, according to the administration.

New AI institutes – the list

The new AI Institutes focus on six research themes:

Trustworthy AI

NSF Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law & Society (TRAILS)

Led by the University of Maryland, TRAILS aims to transform the practice of AI from one driven primarily by technological innovation to one driven with attention to ethics, human rights, and support for communities whose voices have been marginalized into mainstream AI. TRAILS will be the first Institute of its kind to integrate participatory design, technology, and governance of AI systems and technologies and will focus on investigating what trust in AI looks like, whether current technical solutions for AI can be trusted, and which policy models can effectively sustain AI trustworthiness. TRAILS is funded by a partnership between NSF and NIST.

Intelligent Agents for Next-Generation Cybersecurity

AI Institute for Agent-based Cyber Threat Intelligence and Operation (ACTION)

Led by the University of California, Santa Barbara, this Institute will develop novel approaches that leverage AI to anticipate and take corrective actions against cyberthreats that target the security and privacy of computer networks and their users. The team of researchers will work with experts in security operations to develop a revolutionary approach to cybersecurity, in which AI-enabled intelligent security agents cooperate with humans across the cyber-defense life cycle to jointly improve the resilience of security of computer systems over time. ACTION is funded by a partnership between NSF, DHS S&T, and IBM.

Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry

AI Institute for Climate-Land Interactions, Mitigation, Adaptation, Tradeoffs and Economy (AI-CLIMATE)

Led by the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, this Institute aims to advance foundational AI by incorporating knowledge from agriculture and forestry sciences and leveraging these unique, new AI methods to curb climate effects while lifting rural economies. By creating a new scientific discipline and innovation ecosystem intersecting AI and climate-smart agriculture and forestry, our researchers and practitioners will discover and invent compelling AI-powered knowledge and solutions. Examples include AI-enhanced estimation methods of greenhouse gases and specialized field-to-market decision support tools. A key goal is to lower the cost of and improve accounting for carbon in farms and forests to empower carbon markets and inform decision-making. The Institute will also expand and diversify rural and urban AI workforces. AI-CLIMATE is funded by USDA-NIFA.

Neural and Cognitive Foundations of Artificial Intelligence

AI Institute for Artificial and Natural Intelligence (ARNI)

Led by Columbia University, this Institute will draw together top researchers across the country to focus on a national priority: connecting the major progress made in AI systems to the revolution in our understanding of the brain. ARNI will meet the urgent need for new paradigms of interdisciplinary research between neuroscience, cognitive science, and AI. This will accelerate progress in all three fields and broaden the transformative impact on society in the next decade. ARNI is funded by a partnership between NSF and OUSD (R&E).

AI for Decision Making

AI-Institute for Societal Decision Making (AI-SDM)

Led by Carnegie Mellon University, this Institute seeks to create human-centric AI for decision making to bolster effective response in uncertain, dynamic, and resource-constrained scenarios like disaster management and public health. By bringing together an interdisciplinary team of AI and social science researchers, AI-SDM will enable emergency managers, public health officials, first responders, community workers, and the public to make decisions that are data driven, robust, agile, resource efficient, and trustworthy. The vision of AI-SDM will be realized via development of AI theory and methods, translational research, training, and outreach, enabled by partnerships with diverse universities, government organizations, corporate partners, community colleges, public libraries, and high schools.

AI-Augmented Learning to Expand Education Opportunities and Improve Outcomes

AI Institute for Inclusive Intelligent Technologies for Education (INVITE)

Led by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, this Institute seeks to fundamentally reframe how educational technologies interact with learners by developing AI tools and approaches to support three crucial noncognitive skills known to underlie effective learning: persistence, academic resilience, and collaboration. The Institute’s use-inspired research will focus on how children communicate STEM content, how they learn to persist through challenging work, and how teachers support and promote noncognitive skill development. The resultant AI-based tools will be integrated into classrooms to empower teachers to support learners in more developmentally appropriate ways.

AI Institute for Exceptional Education (AI4ExceptionalEd)

Led by the University at Buffalo, this Institute will work toward universal speech and language screening for children. The framework, the AI screener, will analyze video and audio streams of children during classroom interactions and assess the need for evidence-based interventions tailored to individual needs of students. The institute will serve children in need of ability-based speech and language services, advance foundational AI technologies and enhance understanding of childhood speech and language development. The AI Institute for Exceptional Education was previously announced in January 2023. The INVITE and AI4ExceptionalEd Institutes are funded by a partnership between NSF and ED-IES.

Source: NSF

The plan comes the same day that Vice President Kamala Harris and other administration officials are expected to meet with the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, ChatGPT-creator OpenAI and Anthropic to emphasize the importance of ethical and responsible AI development. And it coincides with a UK government inquiry launched Thursday into the risks and benefits of AI.

“Tech companies have a fundamental responsibility to make sure their products are safe and secure, and that they protect people’s rights before they’re deployed or made public,” a senior Biden administration official told reporters on a conference call.

Officials cited a range of risks the public faces in the widespread adoption of AI tools, including the possible use of AI-created deepfakes and misinformation that could undermine the democratic process. Job losses linked to rising automation, biased algorithmic decision-making, physical dangers arising from autonomous vehicles and the threat of AI-powered malicious hackers are also on the White House’s list of concerns.

It’s just the latest example of the federal government acknowledging concerns from the rapid development and deployment of new AI tools, and trying to find ways to address some of the risks.

Testifying before Congress, members of the Federal Trade Commission have argued AI could “turbocharge” fraud and scams. Its chair, Lina Khan, wrote in a New York Times op-ed this week that the US government has ample existing legal authority to regulate AI by leaning on its mandate to protect consumers and competition.

Last year, the Biden administration unveiled a proposal for an AI Bill of Rights calling for developers to respect the principles of privacy, safety and equal rights as they create new AI tools.

Earlier this year, the Commerce Department released voluntary risk management guidelines for AI that it said could help organizations and businesses “govern, map, measure and manage” the potential dangers in each part of the development cycle. In April, the Department also said it is seeking public input on the best policies for regulating AI, including through audits and industry self-regulation.

The US government isn’t alone in seeking to shape AI development. European officials anticipate hammering out AI legislation as soon as this year that could have major implications for AI companies around the world.

— CNN’s Donald Judd contributed to this report.

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