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By Debbie Gregory.

Eric Schmidt will join 14 other tech experts on the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. The commission, created by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, will advise government on the national security implications of artificial intelligence and how to maintain U.S. dominance in the tech’s increasingly competitive market. The group is eligible for up to $10 million in funding through fiscal 2020. Former Alphabet Chief Executive Eric Schmidt will head the group, and former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will serve as vice chairman.

Commissioners were appointed by the secretaries of Defense and Commerce, as well as the top Republicans and Democrats on congressional armed services, commerce and intelligence committees. Other members include:

• Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services
• Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle
• Chris Darby, CEO of In-Q-Tel
• Jason Matheny, former IARPA director
• Eric Horvitz, director of Microsoft Research Labs
• Mignon Clyburn, Open Society Foundation fellow and former FCC commissioner
• Andrew Moore, head of Google Cloud AI
• Steve Chien, supervisor of the AI Group at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Lab
• Ken Ford, CEO of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
• Jose-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University
• Gilman Louie, partner at Alsop Louie Partners
• William Mark, director of SRI’s Information and Computing Sciences Division
• Katharina McFarland, consultant at Cypress International

The commission is required by law to review the state of artificial intelligence in the U.S. and draft multiple reports on how the government could advance the technology. Among the group’s areas of interest are research funding, workforce reskilling and AI ethics.

Per the NDAA, the commission is supposed to have its first report published by early February.

“Artificial intelligence will have an enormous impact on our future economic and military competitiveness,” Work said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Eric Schmidt and the other distinguished commissioners on how best to exploit this rapidly improving technology for the betterment of our citizens, economy and security.”

By Debbie Gregory.

Senior artificial intelligence managers with tech giant Google recently participated in a day-long Air Force event to trade ideas on how best to curb hypoxia-like events from happening to pilots, giving Air Force officials a glimpse into how the services can leverage developing technologies faster.

The Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT, has already fostered a collaboration between the Air Force and the Navy, which until now have been separately trying to find the causes of, and solutions to, the so-called unexplained physiological episode (PE) events.

Pilots, physiologists, data scientists, engineers and maintenance personnel were joined outside of the nation’s capital in December by Google managers at the event known as an AF PEAT hackathon, to assist pilots flying aircraft such as the T-6 Texan II, F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagle, F-35 Lightning II and A-10 Thunderbolt II.

For each type/model/series aircraft, the J-PEAT team is using a methodology called root cause corrective action analysis to trace fault trees, allowing a thorough, data-driven and methodical approach to identifying causes of PE events.

“Working closely with the Navy, NASA and other industry partners, the Air Force is making huge strides to better understand and solve issues,” said Brig. Gen. Edward Vaughan, the AF PEAT team lead. “We are in a period of very positive, but disruptive, innovation. There are hundreds of efforts across the human physiology and aircraft ecosystems moving in many directions.”

The symptoms, including disorientation, shortness of breath, confusion and wheezing, mimic both hypoxia, deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, and hypocapnia, which is reduced carbon dioxide in the blood.

“Physiological episodes happen to people, not equipment,” said Jennifer Farrell, chief engineer for the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Human Systems Program Office. “We must focus on design that enhances the human element.”

The symptoms experienced by pilots, including disorientation, shortness of breath, confusion and wheezing, mimic both hypoxia, deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues, and hypocapnia, which is reduced carbon dioxide in the blood.

 

By Debbie Gregory.

Silicon Valley and the U.S. military have built their successes on completely different cultures: tech companies have a culture of rapid innovation, while the Pentagon is slow-moving. And recently, a wave of anti-government sentiment has driven several prominent technology firms to cancel major Washington contracts. But much to the disappointment of many of their employees, there are still many Silicon Valley companies that are eager to sell artificial intelligence (AI) products to the U.S. military.

Despite pressure from many in the tech world to keep their products off the battlefield, there is a less vocal but still sizable group of companies that argue that working with the government can help save lives.

The concept of lethal AI is just one area where hundreds of tech workers are trying to influence corporate behavior and ethics by signing a pledge not to work on lethal autonomous weapons. A group of Google employees protested the company’s involvement in Project Maven, the Defense Department’s flagship AI program, which uses sophisticated algorithms to analyze drone footage. Microsoft has pledged to have a dialogue with the Defense Department and policymakers about ethical issues surrounding AI, including autonomous weapons.

But companies such as Intel, IBM, GE, Oracle and Raytheon have expressed interest in providing AI for the military.

The Pentagon has spent the last few years trying to cultivate deeper ties with firms in Silicon Valley that are building the technologies needed to maintain its battlefield edge.

“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

Bezos’ eagerness to cooperate with the Pentagon stems from his desire to keep America safe. “I know everybody is very conflicted about the current politics and so on,” he said, and added, “This country is a gem.”

By Debbie Gregory.

As the power of artificial intelligence grows, Army officials are hoping that a consortium of experts in non-military robotics can assist combat units in defeating the enemy.

The Army’s Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate (CDID) at Fort Benning has partnered with the National Advanced Mobility Consortium to address some of the military’s problems.

Army officials are hoping the collaboration will result in a solution that can be used for precision engagement in close urban terrain, for dealing with enemy forces that hide among the population in large cities.

The Army thinks robotics can help soldiers do just that, according to Don Sando, director of CDID.

Current artificial intelligence cannot make better battlefield judgements better than humans, but AI is getting smarter, and one day they could theoretically help limit the loss of innocent lives caught in the crossfire.

The CDID-consortium partnership aims to equip military servicemen with tools that will work to conduct precision engagement in close urban terrain, said Col. Tom Nelson, chief of CDID’s robotics requirement division.

“Within five years, I have no doubt there will be robots in every Army formation,” said Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection. He touted a record 800 robots fielded over the past 18 months. “We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs,” he said. “This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army.”

But “killer robots” have sparked a moral and ethical discussion.

“It seems inevitable that technology is taking us to a point where countries will face the question of whether to delegate lethal decision-making to machines,” said Paul Scharre, a senior fellow and director of the technology and national security program at the Center for a New American Security.

The partnership will have between now and April to conceptualize precision strike platforms, with the goal of presenting either prototypes or proposals at the National Defense Industry Association’s National Robotic Conference.

By Debbie Gregory.

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and IBM Watson Health have announced an extension of their partnership to bring artificial intelligence and genomic analytics to cancer care.

Watson’s AI is used to identify the specific cancer genome present in a patient and using that knowledge to tailor treatment. The VA’s precision oncology program has treated more than 2,700 veterans, primarily with stage 4 cancer who are eligible for alternative treatment options.

The computer system was initially developed to answer questions on the quiz show Jeopardy! and, in 2011,  Watson competed against legendary champions Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings, beating out the top competitors.

But Watson’s mission in the VA is meant to serve a much higher purpose.

“Our mission with VA’s precision oncology program is to bring the most advanced treatment opportunities to Veterans, in hopes of giving our nation’s heroes better treatments through these breakthroughs,” said Acting VA Secretary Peter O’Rourke.

Watson for Oncology has received some less-than-flattering press; last September, the health care news site Stat News found that “the supercomputer isn’t living up to the lofty expectations IBM created for it.”

The supercomputer came under fire for providing incorrect and ‘unsafe’ healthcare treatment advice to cancer patients. In one example, a patient was recommended a drug that could lead to severe or fatal hemorrhage while he was already dealing with severe bleeding due to his condition.

“It is still struggling with the basic step of learning about different forms of cancer,” Stat reported. “Only a few dozen hospitals have adopted the system, which is a long way from IBM’s goal of establishing dominance in a multibillion-dollar market.”

The VA treats 3.5 percent of the nation’s cancer patients, the largest group of cancer patients within any one healthcare entity. The department isn’t paying for Watson, with the latest extension in the partnership still part of a free trial.

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