Opening Twitter’s Algorithm: Last week, Elon Musk reached a deal to buy Twitter for approximately $44 billion. Of the many changes Musk has hinted at pursuing once the deal goes through (as it is expected to later this year), of particular relevance to an AI-focused audience is a potential plan to make Twitter’s algorithms open source. In a TED talk last month, Musk floated the idea of uploading the algorithm’s code to GitHub, where independent observers could suggest changes, critique design choices or point out mistakes. But a number of observers have noted that increasing Twitter’s algorithmic transparency isn’t as simple as copy-pasting to GitHub. As Will Knight wrote in Wired, Twitter has no “master algorithm” — instead, user-engagement decisions are determined by the complex interactions of many different algorithms, the (presumably exabytes of) data Twitter has access to, and the inputs of human users. What’s more, decisions made by machine learning-based algorithms, like those used by Twitter, are notoriously difficult to parse, even with complete access. In March, for instance, the Verge’s Alex Heath reported that it took Facebook engineers years to discover a bug that had caused the system powering Facebook’s News Feed to promote misinformation instead of suppressing it, and several months more to locate the bug. If Twitter’s algorithms are at all similar, it seems unlikely that access to its code would be particularly illuminating for outside observers without access to other crucial inputs.
DOD Names Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer: Last week, the Pentagon announced Dr. Craig Martell as the new Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer, putting him at the helm of the office meant to coordinate the Pentagon’s data, AI and digital efforts. The office of the CDAO, announced in December, was established to oversee the work of three of the Pentagon’s primary AI and data offices: the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (though according to a recent GAO report, the JAIC will stand down by the end of fiscal year 2022), the Defense Digital Service and the office of the Chief Data Officer. Martell’s background spans industry and academia — he was most recently the head of machine learning for Lyft — and while his Pentagon experience may be lacking, the DOD has taken steps to ensure the office of the CDAO isn’t short on Pentagon expertise. Margaret Palmieri — the recently named deputy CDAO — founded the Navy Digital Warfare Office and has years of Pentagon experience under her belt. A DOD spokesperson touted the match of an “industry outsider” with “inside the department” expertise as a key consideration in the appointments.
Project Maven Moves to NGA: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will soon take over Project Maven, one of the DOD’s earliest and best-known AI initiatives. Established in 2017, the project — which is tasked with fielding AI-powered computer vision systems capable of analyzing drone footage — had been run as an “Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team” out of the office of the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security. The move to the NGA, which is part of the DOD’s FY2023 budget request, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Discussions about giving Project Maven a more permanent operational home stretch back years — in 2020, for example, the Air Force was angling to take it over — and the NGA — the intelligence and combat support agency responsible for collecting and analyzing geospatial intelligence — has been involved with the project since its inception.
In Translation CSET’s translations of significant foreign language documents on AI
PRC Draft Dual-Use Export Control Regulation:Export Control Regulations for Dual-Use Items (Draft for Feedback). The following document is China’s draft regulation on export controls on dual-use items. When finalized, it will replace existing, separate regulations governing export controls on missile-related dual-use items and on nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons-related dual-use items. The PRC Ministry of Commerce is soliciting public feedback on this draft regulation through May 22, 2022.
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Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Cybersecurity: On May 3, CSET Senior Fellow Andrew Lohn testified on artificial intelligence applications in cyberspace operations at a Senate Armed Services cyber subcommittee hearing. He discussed AI’s capabilities and vulnerabilities in cyber defenses and operations. Read his testimony or watch it here.
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