Google’s Split With AI Ethics Researcher Sparks Controversy: Timnit Gebru, former co-lead of Google’s Ethical AI team, said early this month she’d been fired over an email criticizing Google’s management. Gebru — an expert on algorithmic bias, co-founder of Black In AI, and one of the few Black women leaders in the industry — emailed the internal group “Google Brain Women and Allies” critiquing the company’s treatment of women and minority employees and its handling of a paper she had co-written. The research paper reportedly identified problems with AI models used by Google and others to understand human language. After the paper was submitted to an academic conference, Google management reportedly asked her to retract it or remove her name and the names of other Google employees. Google AI chief Jeff Dean wrote in an internal email that the paper “didn’t meet our bar for publication” and “ignored too much relevant research,” but Gebru argued Google’s demands amounted to censorship. While Gebru’s 2018 hiring helped bolster Google’s public commitment to “ethical AI,” observers say her departure highlights the inherent difficulties of producing independent research at for-profit companies like Google.
- More: Google CEO pledges to investigate exit of top AI ethicist | Google Illegally Fired And Spied On Workers Who Tried To Organize, Labor Agency Says
- More: One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority | Chinese professor, despite no remorse, to return home after guilty plea in Huawei theft case | China’s system of oppression in Xinjiang: How it developed and how to curb it
Fewer Bits Could Change Deep Learning: During the annual NeurIPS conference last week, IBM researchers proposed a new process that could make deep learning much more efficient. In their paper, the researchers explain that 4-bit computers could perform the same AI processes as 16-bit computers (the current standard) with only a minor loss in accuracy. Training efficiency could rise by more than 700 percent through 4-bit deep learning, opening the door for deep learning on smaller devices like smartphones. Speaking with MIT Technology Review, some observers advised caution: because 4-bit training would require new hardware, its real-world application is still several years away, and its actual performance may not measure up to the theoretical levels proposed in last week’s paper. One expert noted that promising 2016 research on 5-bit training failed to deliver on lofty expectations.
Congress Passes NDAA: Last Friday, the Senate approved the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The $741 billion defense policy bill garnered bipartisan support in both the House and Senate: the votes were 335 to 78 and 84 to 13, respectively. The bill includes a number of provisions related to AI and emerging technology, including:
- The National AI Initiative Act, which directs the president to establish a National Artificial Intelligence Initiative to support U.S. leadership in AI. The measure authorizes approximately $5 billion for National Science Foundation AI research and education grants, as well as more than $1 billion for Department of Energy AI research.
- Provisions from the CHIPS for America Act to support the development and production of semiconductors in the United States. The included provisions direct DOD to establish a public-private consortium for the development of chips. They also authorize a fund to advance microelectronics research with allies and partners, provided those partners enact controls on chip exports to China.
Courts Rule On Immigration Suits: U.S. District Court rulings struck down two different attempts to limit high-skilled immigration, one by the Trump administration, the other by a U.S. technology workers union. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White of the Northern District of California ruled against the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security in a lawsuit by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over changes to the H-1B visa program. Those changes would have excluded an estimated third of current recipients by reducing the list of qualifying occupations, tightening degree requirements, and significantly raising minimum salaries. Earlier this week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia also ruled against the Department of Labor in a related case filed by Purdue University and several other schools and organizations. Also in the D.C. District Court, Judge Reggie B. Walton ruled against the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers, which had sued the Department of Homeland Security in an attempt to end the Optional Practical Training. OPT allows foreign students to work in the United States for up to three years after graduating while still on their student visas. Getting rid of the program would have cut off one of the country’s key sources of AI talent; roughly half of all graduate students who enroll in OPT hold AI-related degrees.
President Trump Signs Executive Order On AI Development: On December 3, the president issued an executive order that sets guiding principles for the federal government’s AI use. It instructs agencies to adhere to nine principles when designing, developing, acquiring or using AI, including that it be “Understandable,” “Responsible and traceable,” “Accountable” and “Regularly monitored.” The order directs OMB to develop a roadmap for policy guidance within 180 days, a deadline more than four months into the Biden administration. Although the Biden campaign advanced positions on AI policy, the transition has not yet released an AI strategy.
House Unanimously Passes Resolution On National AI Strategy: Last week, the House passed a nonbinding resolution outlining a national AI strategy. The resolution, co-authored by Reps. Hurd and Kelly, drew on four white papers by the Bipartisan Policy Center written in consultation with Hurd and Kelly, including one co-authored by CSET. The measure encourages collaboration with allies, increased R&D funding and expanded support for technology education programs. The Senate has yet to consider a similar resolution.
CSET’s translations of significant foreign language documents on AI
CSET’s translations of significant foreign language documents on AI
PRC Cybersecurity Report: Research Report on the Status of China’s Information Security Professionals (2018-2019). This study by a PRC government cybersecurity center analyzes China’s complement of cybersecurity and IT security professionals. The study finds that PRC cybersecurity practitioners are still too few in number and are often burdened with non-security-related IT tasks, though China is making progress solving these problems. The authors recommend that all Party leaders take courses on cybersecurity to raise awareness of the importance of the topic.
What We’re Reading
Report: The Global AI Index, Tortoise Intelligence (December 2020)
Data Visualization: Stateoftheart AI (December 2020)
Article: A Narrowing of AI Research?, Joel Klinger, Juan Mateos-Garcia, Konstantinos Stathoulopoulos (November 2020)
What’s New at CSET
- Hacking AI: A Primer for Policymakers on Machine Learning Cybersecurity by Andrew Lohn
- Universities and the Chinese Defense Technology Workforce by Ryan Fedasiuk and Emily Weinstein
CSET is hiring! Please share with qualified candidates in your network or consider applying.
- Research Analyst: We’re looking for a Research Analyst to focus on biotechnology efforts. Collaborate with Research Fellows to develop and execute research projects. BA in relevant area and comfort with data analysis/viz required (MA preferred).
- Defense One: We Need a Backup for GPS. Actually, We Need Several of Them by Robert Cardillo
- The Cyberlaw Podcast: Episode 341, It’s Time to Pay Attention When Attention Stops Paying featuring Tim Hwang
- OODALoop: Four National Security Experts Discuss Critical Technologies at OODAcon featuring Melissa Flagg
- China Talk: How to Research China, Talent Programs, and Military-Civil Fusion featuring Emily Weinstein
- CSET: Legislative Roundup: End-of-Year Sprint Includes Major AI Proposals by Daniel Hague
- CSET Foretell: Four Possible Scenarios for U.S.-China [De]Coupling in the Semiconductor Industry by Saif M. Khan and Michael Page
CSET has launched a crowd forecasting platform. Sign up as a forecaster, and take a look at some of the predictions so far:
- (New) How many of the top chipmakers in China will be subject to new export controls in 2021?
- (New) What percentage of the top five semiconductor manufacturing equipment producers will come from China in 2021?
- On December 8, the CSET Webinar Following the Money: What Investment Trends Can Tell Us About AI’s Present and Future featured a conversation between CSET’s Zachary Arnold and Dr. Sarah Sewall, Executive Vice President for Policy at In-Q-Tel. They discussed the implications of Arnold’s recent report, Tracking AI Investment.
- On December 15, Saif M. Khan and Michael Page explained how forecast data can inform industrial and trade policy as part of CSET Foretell’s In Conversation Series.
- Politico: CSET Director of Strategy Helen Toner commented on the EU’s overtures to the incoming Biden administration in a recent edition of Politico’s China Watcher newsletter.
- University World News: A story about Chinese researchers in the United States quoted Research Analyst Emily Weinstein and cited her Chinese Talent Program Tracker.
- Voice of America: Weinstein also discussed the Tracker with VOA’s Mandarin service for a Chinese-language article.
- MERICS: MERICS reviewed the new book China’s Quest for Foreign Technology: Beyond Espionage, co-edited by CSET Lead Analyst William Hannas with contributions from several CSET colleagues, in its China Briefing newsletter.
- C4ISRNET: An article about the incoming Biden administration cited the CSET data brief Most of America’s “Most Promising” AI Startups Have Immigrant Founders by Tina Huang, Zachary Arnold and Remco Zwetsloot.
- TechRepublic: The CSET report AI Chips: What They Are and Why They Matter by Saif M. Khan and Alexander Mann was cited in a TechRepublic piece about Apple’s new M1 chip.
- January 11-15 and 19-21: AIAA, 2021 AIAA SciTech Forum featuring Melissa Flagg
- January 14: CSET Tech and Security Webinar: The Way Forward featuring Helen Toner, Andrew Imbrie, Melissa Flagg and Remco Zwetsloot
What else is going on? Suggest stories, documents to translate & upcoming events here.