Microsoft chief scientific officer Eric Horvitz warned lawmakers on Tuesday that America’s application of artificial intelligence is not living up to its full potential.
“What grade would you give the Department of Defense in their implementation and utilization of AI today?” asked Sen. Mike Rounds, South Dakota Republican, during a hearing.
Mr. Horvitz responded by giving most of the U.S. a D or maybe a C-.
“I think about healthcare and how AI is a sleeping giant for healthcare, whether it be the [veterans affairs] system or other venues,” he said.
Artificial intelligence is the use of computer systems to complete tasks that typically require human action, such as tasks involving language, perception and decision-making. Advances in machine learning and robotics have helped make artificial intelligence tools valuable to governments and businesses, and present new opportunities and challenges for countries waging war and fighting off attackers.
Mr. Horvitz said the Department of Defense did not deserve to be singled out as failing given their efforts to catch up and noted many of the department’s operations would benefit from the basic use of machine learning tools.
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Other tech experts from Google and Georgetown University who testified at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing also expressed concerns about the AI deficiencies, though they were somewhat more optimistic.
Google Cloud’s leading artificial intelligence executive, Andrew Moore, said he feared the U.S. government’s actions might not match its talk about artificial intelligence.
“The way that we’re structured with such brilliant individuals within the U.S. government, U.S. military, who are willing to try new things, is fantastic, but I’m really, really worried if I don’t see a concerted effort but instead just lots of talk,” said Mr. Moore.
He said the Department of Defense needed a centralized effort for artificial intelligence across its workforce because AI was not something that could be easily piled on to all existing systems.
The artificial intelligence experts briefing lawmakers about AI’s applications in cyberspace all agreed America was ahead of competitors in AI. Georgetown University’s Andrew Lohn said China was not sitting still, however.
“I’ve tried to study this directly and the U.S. is ahead, China has been gaining,” Mr. Lohn said. “We still have an innovation lead, I’m confident to say, and we also have companies like those represented here that give us a huge leg up.”
Mr. Lohn also said the Department of Defense did not deserve a D grade on its application of AI though he noted there is plenty of reason to be pessimistic.