Stanford to host 100-year study on artificial intelligence

December 16, 2014

Stanford University has invited leading thinkers from several institutions to begin a 100-year effort to study and anticipate how the effects of artificial intelligence on every aspect of how people work, live, and play.

This effort, called the One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence (AI100) is the brainchild of computer scientist and Stanford alumnus Eric Horvitz. As former president of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, he convened a conference in 2009 at which top researchers considered advances in AI and its influences on people and society.

Now, together with Russ Altman, a professor of bioengineering and computer science at Stanford, Horvitz has formed a committee that will select a panel to begin a series of periodic studies on how AI will affect automation, national security, psychology, ethics, law, privacy, democracy and other issues.

Five leading academicians with diverse interests will join Horvitz and Altman in launching this effort:

  • Barbara Grosz, the Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences at Harvard University and an expert on multi-agent collaborative systems;
  • Deirdre K. Mulligan, a lawyer and a professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley, who collaborates with technologists to advance privacy and other democratic values through technical design and policy;
  • Yoav Shoham, a professor of computer science at Stanford, who seeks to incorporate common sense into AI;
  • Tom Mitchell, the E. Fredkin University Professor and chair of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, whose studies include how computers might learn to read the Web; and
  • Alan Mackworth, a professor of computer science at the University of British Columbia and the Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence, who built the world’s first soccer-playing robot.

Altman will serve as faculty director and both he and Horvitz will be ex officio members of the committee. Together, the seven researchers will form the first AI100 standing committee. It and subsequent committees will identify the most compelling topics in AI at any given time, and convene a panel of experts to study and report on these issues.

‘Great value ahead of humanity’

“I’m very optimistic about the future and see great value ahead for humanity with advances in systems that can perceive, learn, and reason,” said Horvitz, a distinguished scientist and managing director at Microsoft Research who initiated AI100 as a private philanthropic initiative.  “However, it is difficult to anticipate all of the opportunities and issues, so we need to create an enduring process.”

In a white paper, Horvitz listed some of the topics of interest, including technical trends and surprises, key opportunities, privacy and machine intelligence, democracy and freedom, AI and warfare, criminal uses of AI, neuroscience and AI, and loss of control of AI systems.

The study would work broadly to identify where more investigation, effort, and investment might be needed across a wide range of opportunities and concerns, the paper notes. “For example, many promising AI technologies and prototypes have been developed with clear demonstrated value, yet have not yet been translated into real-world usage in such critical areas as healthcare, education, and transportation. Delays with the wide-scale fielding of such solutions translate into significant monetary costs and loss of life.”

AI100 is funded by a gift from Eric and Mary Horvitz. They envision that the program, with its century-long chain of standing committees, study panels and growing digital archive, will remain a center of vigilance as the future unfolds.

“We’re excited about kicking off a hundred years of observation and thinking about the influences of artificial intelligence on people and society,” said Horvitz.  “It’s our hope that the study, with its extended memory and long gaze, will provide important insights and guidance over the next century and beyond.”