The Foward50 Workshop on AI Sustainability and Ethics

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I’m honored to speak on Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovation at the 2019 Forward 50 Conference. Last year, the conference was attended by 20 countries, 1,500 government executives and a hundred speakers, panelists, and experts.

I’ll be leading a session on AI, Sustainability, and Ethics. In this 3-hour workshop, we’ll develop the intuition and common sense needed to apply AI in a low-carbon economy. We’ll learn about the abilities and limitations of modern AI through hands-on interaction.

AI is particularly critical for the low-carbon economy because it allows for large-scale coordination of local action. From self-regulating buildings to smart-grid operations to energy storage, AI can help sustain the optimal use of natural and industrial resources.

All that’s needed is a basic familiarity of machine learning, basic knowledge of data analytics, real-world experience with the federal government—oh, and lots of teamwork. Equipped with just a laptop, a smartphone, and a working Wi-Fi connection, we’ll build a high-level understanding of:

  1. The abilities and limitations of modern AI technology
  2. The common sense needed to predict AI behavior and anticipate risk
  3. How AI can support a low-carbon economy
  1. How to get started on a government-scale AI project

Activities for the Day:

Of course, we’ll adapt as we go, but, here’s the plan for the day:

01:30 p.m.: Start with a Primer on AI

It’s too early to worry about a sentient AI apocalypse. AI can simulate human-level performance but only for very specific tasks. More realistically, AI will help make public services smarter and more meaningful. In this session, participants will experience, firsthand, the abilities and limitations of modern AI technology. Working in small groups, participants will develop our AI intuition by interacting with an AI application and solving small machine-learning problems.

2:30 p.m.: Explore the Ethical Implications of AI

AI (typically based on machine learning) improves by learning from experience. It is one of the few types of software to gain new features after it is released. The central ethical challenge of AI, then, is how to quickly detect when the software learns to do something unethical. We’ll compete in trivia teams with questions that build the common sense needed to predict AI behavior and anticipate risk.

3:30 p.m.: AI, Ethics and Sustainability

By assisting with large-scale coordination of local, sustainable actions, AI can be the key to a low-carbon economy. A primary challenge to government-scale, sustainable AI is moving past plans and getting started. So, we’ll finish the day by running an AI sprint. Attendees will participate in the launch of a real, government-scale application of AI in sustainability. Participants will help shape the scope and build the backlog.


Please check the comments. I’ll encourage those in attendance to leave their impressions of how it all went.

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