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AI Unleashed with Dewey Murdick

A Personal & Global Revolution

We were fortunate to hear Dewey Murdick, Executive Director at Georgetown's Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET), speak at Modev's GovAI. One of the reasons his talk stood out is that it wasn't just about the nuts and bolts of AI; it was a personal story intertwined with a comprehensive look at AI's global impact. It was an insightful and eye-opening talk with a human story at its core.

Let's take a closer look at what he discussed.

AI, From the Technical to the Personal

Imagine growing up with a burning desire to immerse yourself in the works of political philosophers like Hobbes and Kant, only to be held back by reading difficulties. That was Dewey's reality before AI stepped in and transformed his life. Through tools like synthetic voices and OCR technology, he went from being unable to read effectively to devouring texts at an astonishing 600 words per minute. This personal transformation allowed him to pursue a once out-of-reach career, leading him to become an influential figure in AI policy.

But this wasn't just a personal success story but a clarion call to recognize AI's transformative power globally. The concept of "AI convergence" was quickly introduced. AI convergence is where AI melds with various sectors, creating a synergy that reshapes our world. From bioengineering to material science and even landscaping, AI is the new frontier. Exemplified through an anecdote about a landscaping business owner who used AI to generate proposals, overcome their writing challenges, and boost their business, it's a testament to how AI can be a game-changer for entrepreneurs everywhere.

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and we need to zero in on the elephant in the room - the risks of AI. By now, we've all heard at least a few anecdotes where AI has already caused harm, from self-driving car mishaps to a tragic case in Belgium where a chatbot was implicated in a person's suicide. These stories are a stark reminder that while AI can be a force for good, it can also have dire consequences if not developed and deployed responsibly.

AI in the Public Sector: Risks and Benefits

Then, there's the role of AI in government and public service. The government has a duty to act in the public's best interest. Critical questions must be posed about the government's role as a buyer and user of AI, highlighting its potential to transform mission areas like border protection and disaster response. It's about leveraging AI to serve the nation while ensuring it's used appropriately to better society.

We also need to acknowledge the competitive nature of AI development because while the U.S. is making strides in areas like large language models, China is focusing on surveillance and control technologies. This competition extends to the race for AI talent, with countries like China and India rapidly expanding their pools of STEM graduates. To stay competitive, we need to foster AI literacy and ensure a diverse talent pool is at the table.

Here are four concrete recommendations for navigating the AI landscape: 

  • Mandatory Reporting of AI Failures: We learn from our mistakes. Hence, we must document where AI fails to inform policy and prevent future harm.
  • Empowerment Through Data: Communities must have a say in AI's data collection and use, ensuring that those impacted by AI have a say in its development and deployment.
  • Human-Machine Teaming Metrics: As humans move from being "in the loop" to "on the loop," we need to develop metrics to measure the performance of human-machine teams, ensuring safety and efficiency.
  • Cybersecurity for AI: With new threat vectors emerging, we must apply lessons from cybersecurity to protect against attacks on AI systems.

In other words, we must adopt an "act, learn, adapt" cycle in AI governance. By taking informed actions, maximizing learning, and adapting our strategies, we can steer AI toward a future that upholds our values of prosperity, safety, and justice.

Wrapping up

So, what's the key takeaway from Dewey's talk? It's a rallying cry for all of us to engage with AI thoughtfully and proactively. It's also a reminder that the future of AI is not predetermined — it will be shaped by the choices we make today. Policymakers must craft regulations that encourage innovation while protecting the public. Business owners should invest in AI not just for profit but also for the betterment of their customers and society. And individuals, regardless of their role, should stay informed about AI developments and advocate for ethical practices.

Embracing AI's potential means recognizing its transformative power as well as its challenges. It's about striving for a future where AI not only drives economic growth but also contributes to the well-being of all members of society. By working together — across sectors, disciplines, and borders — we can harness the power of AI to create a world that reflects our shared values of prosperity, safety, and justice. The 5th Industrial Revolution has the potential to be the most inclusive and beneficial yet, but only if we navigate it with wisdom, foresight, and a commitment to the common good.


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