Keeping AI and Robotics from Slipping Beyond Our Control

Responding to concerns about developments in artificial intelligence and robotics -- including driverless cars, drones entering commercial airspace, and lethal autonomous weapons -- Wendell Wallach, a Hastings Center senior advisor, has made three U.S. government policy recommendations for minimizing the risks and supporting beneficial applications. Wallach is the principal investigator on a Hastings Center project that is examining control and responsible innovation in the development of autonomous machines

He announced these recommendations at a press briefing on the emergence of intelligent machines at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Washington on February 13:

  • Direct 10 percent of funding for research in AI and robotics toward studying, managing, and adapting to the societal impact of intelligent machines, including the impact on wages and employment. 
  • Create an oversight and governance coordinating committee for AI and robotics. The committee should be mandated to favor soft governance solutions (industry standards, professional codes of conduct, etc.) over laws and regulatory agencies in forging adaptive solutions to recognized risks and dangers. 
  • Call for a Presidential Order declaring that in the view of the U.S. lethal autonomous weapons systems violate existing international humanitarian law. 

“These recommendations should be looked at together as part of a comprehensive approach to making sure that AI is safe,” says Wallach. “Nothing will destabilize the development of truly beneficial robust, safe, and controllable AI more than an arms race in lethal autonomous weapons.” He is also the chair of the Technology and Ethics study group at Yale University’s Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics. His most recent book is A Dangerous Master: How to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond our Control (Basic Books 2015). 

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