AI researchers gaining broader access to compute resources, government-gathered data

The National AI Initiative Act passed into law Jan. 1, part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2021. This week the White House built on the momentum, introducing the National Artificial Intelligence Research Resource Task Force.

Peopled by 12 members representing academia, industry and government, the group is setting as its first order of business formulating a strategy for opening massive governmental datastores to AI researchers, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

The data will draw on everything from census findings to driving habits gathered from vehicle sensors to—arguably most consequentially—medical records.

Meanwhile the task force will seek to facilitate advanced AI research by boosting compute power for academic and commercial researchers alike.

Task force co-chair Lynne Parker, an AI expert in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, tells WSJ the group wants to equip Congress with “a road map for creating a common research infrastructure the government could offer to outsiders.”

“In order to investigate a lot of their really great ideas in AI, [researchers] need access to powerful computing infrastructure and they need access to data,” Parker explains. “Many researchers, particularly in academia, simply don’t have access to these computational resources and data, and this is hampering innovation.”

Such broad access to so much sensitive data is sure to raise some alarms over privacy and security.

Officials driving the overarching national AI initiative, which is being spearheaded by the science and technology policy office together with the National Science Foundation, say the task force will “evaluate how to make such data available while protecting Americans’ privacy and addressing other ethical concerns,” WSJ reports.

WSJ has posted the article in full for free.

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