Home Artificial Intelligence MIT professor to Congress: “We’re at an inflection point” with AI

MIT professor to Congress: “We’re at an inflection point” with AI

MIT professor to Congress: “We’re at an inflection point” with AI

Government mustn’t “abdicate” its responsibilities and leave the long run path of artificial intelligence solely to Big Tech, Aleksander Mądry, the Cadence Design Systems Professor of Computing at MIT and director of the MIT Center for Deployable Machine Learning, told a Congressional panel on Wednesday. 

Relatively, Mądry said, government must be asking questions on the aim and explainability of the algorithms corporations are using, as a precursor to regulation, which he described as “a vital tool” in ensuring that AI is consistent with society’s goals. If the federal government doesn’t start asking questions, then “I’m extremely fearful” in regards to the way forward for AI, Mądry said in response to an issue from Rep. Gerald Connolly.

Mądry, a number one expert on explainability and AI, was testifying at a hearing titled “Advances in AI: Are We Ready for a Tech Revolution?” before the House Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Information Technology, and Government Innovation, a panel of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight. The opposite witnesses on the hearing were former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, IBM Vice President Scott Crowder, and Center for AI and Digital Policy Senior Research Director Merve Hickok.

In her opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Rep. Nancy Mace cited the book “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” by Schmidt, Henry Kissinger, and Dan Huttenlocher, the dean of the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing. She also called attention to a March 3 op-ed in by the three authors that summarized the book while discussing ChatGPT. Mace said her formal opening remarks had been entirely written by ChatGPT.

In his prepared remarks, Mądry raised three overarching points. First, he noted that AI is “now not a matter of science fiction” or confined to research labs. It’s out on this planet, where it may bring enormous advantages but additionally poses risks.

Second, he said AI exposes us to “interactions that go against our intuition.” He said because AI tools like ChatGPT mimic human communication, individuals are too prone to unquestioningly imagine what such large language models produce. Within the worst case, Mądry warned, human analytical skills will atrophy. He also said it might be a mistake to manage AI as if it were human — for instance, by asking AI to clarify its reasoning and assuming that the resulting answers are credible.

Finally, he said too little attention has been paid to problems that may result from the character of the AI “supply chain” — the best way AI systems are built on top of one another. At the bottom are general systems like ChatGPT, which might be developed by only just a few corporations because they’re so expensive and complicated to construct. Layered on top of such systems are many AI systems designed to handle a specific task, like determining whom an organization should hire. 

Mądry said this layering raised several “policy-relevant” concerns. First, all the system of AI is subject to whatever vulnerabilities or biases are in the massive system at its base, and depends on the work of just a few, large corporations. Second, the interaction of AI systems shouldn’t be well-understood from a technical standpoint, making the outcomes of AI even harder to predict or explain, and making the tools difficult to “audit.” Finally, the combination of AI tools makes it difficult to know whom to carry responsible when an issue results — who must be legally liable and who should address the priority.

Within the written material submitted to the subcommittee, Mądry concluded, “AI technology shouldn’t be particularly well-suited for deployment through complex supply chains,” regardless that that is precisely the way it is being deployed.

Mądry ended his testimony by calling on Congress to probe AI issues and to be prepared to act. “We’re at an inflection point when it comes to what future AI will bring. Seizing this chance means discussing the role of AI, what exactly we wish it to do for us, and methods to ensure it advantages us all. This might be a difficult conversation but we do must have it, and have it now,” he told the subcommittee.

The testimony of all of the hearing witnesses and a video of the hearing, which lasted about two hours, is accessible online.


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