WASHINGTON -- A new report issued by the US government found artificial intelligence will contribute to economic growth and be a valuable tool for improving the world in fields ranging from health care to transportation and the environment. 

Yet while AI has applications in many products, regulations designed to protect the public from harm and ensure fairness in economic competition must be sorted out. Further, where regulatory responses to the addition of AI threaten to increase the cost of compliance, or slow the development or adoption of beneficial innovations, policymakers should consider how those responses could be adjusted to lower costs and barriers to innovation without adversely impacting safety or market fairness.

Those are some of the issues raised in Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence, which details several policy opportunities and implications raised by AI, including how the technology can be used to advance social good and improve government operations; how to adapt regulations that affect AI technologies, such as automated vehicles, in a way that encourages innovation while protecting the public; how to ensure that AI applications are fair, safe, and governable; and how to develop a skilled and diverse AI workforce.

"Public safety must be protected as these technologies are tested and begin to mature," the authors state. "The Department of Transportation is using an approach to evolving the relevant regulations that is based on building expertise in the Department, creating safe spaces and test beds for experimentation, and working with industry and civil society to evolve performance-based regulations that will enable more uses as evidence of safe operation accumulates."

The report was developed by the National Science and Technology Council’s Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, which was chartered in May 2016 to foster interagency coordination, to provide technical and policy advice on topics related to AI, and to monitor the development of AI technologies across industry, the research community and the federal government. The report was reviewed by the NSTC Committee on Technology, which concurred with its contents.

The authors make 23 recommendations ranging from encouraging private and public institutions to examine how AI can be leveraged to the benefit of society, to calls for open standards, data sharing acrpss various public and private entities to facilitate safety, research, and other purposes.

Perhaps most bold is the recommendation that the US government invest in developing and implementing an advanced and automated air traffic management system that is highly scalable, and can fully accommodate autonomous and piloted aircraft alike. The suggestion intimates that skies filled with drones might be closer than we think.

"As the technology of AI continues to develop, practitioners must ensure that AI-enabled systems are governable; that they are open, transparent, and understandable; that they can work effectively with people; and that their operation will remain consistent with human values and aspirations," the authors state.

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