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US Congress is trying to define what artificial intelligence actually means

Alex Edelman / MediaPunch/IPX
United States Senator Maria Cantwell has proposed a new committee on AI.
  • Dave Gershgorn
By Dave Gershgorn

Artificial intelligence reporter

Published This article is more than 2 years old.

What is artificial intelligence? We have an answer for you, but apparently it wasn’t good enough for the United States Congress.

A new bill (pdf) drafted by senator Maria Cantwell asks the Department of Commerce to establish a committee on artificial intelligence to advise the federal government on how AI should be implemented and regulated. Passing of the bill would trigger a process in which the secretary of commerce would be required to release guidelines for legislation of AI within a year and a half.

As with any legislation, the proposed bill defines key terms. In this, we have a look at how the federal government might one day classify artificial intelligence. Here are the five definitions given:

A) Any artificial systems that perform tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances, without significant human oversight, or that can learn from their experience and improve their performance. Such systems may be developed in computer software, physical hardware, or other contexts not yet contemplated. They may solve tasks requiring human-like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication, or physical action. In general, the more human-like the system within the context of its tasks, the more it can be said to use artificial intelligence.

B) Systems that think like humans, such as cognitive architectures and neural networks.

C) Systems that act like humans, such as systems that can pass the Turing test or other comparable test via natural language processing, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and learning.

D) A set of techniques, including machine learning, that seek to approximate some cognitive task.

E) Systems that act rationally, such as intelligent software agents and embodied robots that achieve goals via perception, planning, reasoning, learning, communicating, decision-making, and acting.

The proposed committee wouldn’t just be focused on jobs lost to AI either. Its scope is poised to include guidance on ethics training and development for developers, open research, international competitiveness and cooperation on AI, accountability of AI systems, how AI can help rural areas, and how AI can help the government.

Large technology companies have been independently building organizations to create ethics standards and explore the impact of products built on artificial intelligence, but the Trump administration has taken little notice of the technology. In March, Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin said automation wasn’t even on the administration’s radar screen.

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