Carnegie Mellon colloquium explores artificial intelligence

Credit: Paola Mathus/ Credit: Paola Mathus/

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) and Carnegie Mellon University held the first part of the two-part joint Carnegie Colloquium on Digital Governance and Security in Washington D.C. on Oct. 31. The first part of the colloquium was titled “The Rise of Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Military Operations and Privacy,” and the second part, titled “The Future of the Internet: Governance and Conflict,” will be held this year in Pittsburgh on Dec. 2.

CEIP is a series of foreign policy-based research centers located in Russia, China, Europe, the Middle East, India, and the United States, with headquarters in Washington D.C., that collects itself under the phrase, “The Global Think Tank.” It was established in 1960 by Andrew Carnegie and, according to a report by the University of Pennsylvania, is the third most influential think tank in the world.

The colloquium, held for the benefit of both Carnegie Mellon and the CEIP, aimed to allow for communication between the academics at Carnegie Mellon and the foreign policy and ethics experts from all the CEIP stations across the world to discuss the implication of artificial intelligence on foreign policy and the challenges posed by it. The second part of the colloquium will focus on cyber-security norms and internet governance.

“Designing safe software systems and attempting to create the learning abilities of the human brain are natural progressions towards the two of the modern world’s most pressing concerns — cyber security and privacy,” said President Subra Suresh, in the welcome address. He explained that discussion, such as the one facilitated by the colloquium, would help shape thought about the effects of technology on global society and diplomacy.

The colloquium consisted of three panel discussions with experts from both sides. The first panel was “The Future of Consumer Privacy: Machine Learning and New International Data Protection,” and was introduced by Andrew Moore, Dean of the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon.
In his speech, Moore elaborated on the difficulty of the conflicts between privacy and personalization, especially when using machine learning, saying, “privacy and personalization, which seem like clear goods, lead us to very difficult societal and technical challenges.” He then explained four fictional, but relatable scenarios that shed better light on the dilemma posed by this intersection of technology and policy including law-enforcement and medical use of data.

He referred to the data of Matt Fredrikson – an Associate Professor in the School of Computer Science that reveals the trade-off between privacy levels and lives saved or years of lives saved, to caution against “being on either extreme end of that trade-off” and say that “we should find our place in the middle of that trade-off.”

This panel’s speakers included Edward Felten, a computer scientist and deputy U.S. chief technology officer at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Yuet Ming Tham, a partner at Sidley Austin’s Hong Kong office who focuses on privacy, cross-border compliance, and investigations; and Paul Timmers, director of the Sustainable & Secure Society Directorate in the European Commission Communications Networks, Content and Technologies Directorate General (DG CONNECT).

Following the panel were robot presentations by Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute professors. These included the snakebots by Howie Choset, a professor of robotics; the ballbot by Ralph Hollis, a professor of robotics; and the Robotanist by George Kantor, a senior systems scientist.

Finally, the last panel, titled “International Perspectives: Autonomy and Counter-autonomy in Military Operations,” was introduced by David Brumley, director of CyLab Security and Privacy Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The speakers included Lt. Gen. Dr. R.S. Panwar, the former colonel commandant of the Indian Army Corps of Signals; Daniel Reisner, a partner at Herzog, Fox & Neeman; and Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch and global coordinator of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots.

Jim Garrett, the Dean of CMU’s College of Engineering explains in the university press release about the colloquium, “The wide span of impact from artificial intelligence and cybersecurity demands these kinds of international discussions, ... These forums provide an exchange of ideas, an appreciation for a wide variety of views and a debate on tough topics.”

Thus, the Colloquium is a great way to open discussions about artificial intelligence and its implications, and the second part is sure to bring more interesting and valuable discussion as well.