This Week in Washington IP: Algorithmic Biases in AI, Federal Funding of R&D Programs and Digitalization-Driven Improvements to Energy Efficiency

Washington IPThis week in Washington IP news, a pair of committee hearings in the House take a look at the use of artificial intelligence in contact tracing and exposure notification programs related to COVID-19, as well as the role of the federal government in financial supporting U.S. R&D programs. While the Senate is quiet this week, policy institutes continue to host online events on various topics of political importance in the tech world. Potential biases in algorithmic models used for AI programs are the focus of events at New America and the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, while the Aspen Institute will host an event Wednesday morning on the potential for algorithms to unearth biases hidden in our society. The American Enterprise Institute will also explore federal research programs, including the need for a major U.S. project to jump-start basic and applied research.

Tuesday, July 7

New America 

How Advertising Algorithms Drive the Internet’s Favorite Business Model

At 2:30 PM on Tuesday, online video webinar.

Concerns about algorithmic biases baked into the underlying technology for artificial intelligence and machine learning platforms include the possibility that the use of these algorithms can lead to discriminatory outcomes. With Internet advertising systems providing information to consumers online about everything from job opportunities to real estate, many have questioned how to maintain accountability and transparency from Internet ad companies which use these algorithms to place ads online. Speakers at the event will include Joe Westby, Technology and Human Rights Researcher, Amnesty International; Lindsey Kerr, Staff Director and Chief Counsel, Ranking Member Amy Klobuchar’s Office, U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; Morgan Williams, General Counsel, National Fair Housing Alliance; and Natalie Maréchal, Senior Policy Analyst, Ranking Digital Rights. The event will be moderated by Spandi Singh, Policy Analyst, New America’s Open Technology Institute. 


Wednesday, July 8 

The Aspen Institute 

Aspen Tech Policy Hub Demo Day – Needles in Haystacks: Using Tech for Good

At 9:00 AM on Wednesday, online video webinar.

Much has been made of fears that algorithms used in artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies could be used to reinforce the biases of the people designing those algorithms. However, there is some potential for the use of these algorithms to help identify discrepancies and inequalities in our own society in a way that can advance social good. The event, part of the Aspen Tech Policy Hub’s Demo Day Video Series, will feature presentations on topics involving the use of digital escrow solutions to increase reporting of suspect behaviors by potential active shooters and the use of algorithms to promote fair loan approval and pricing decisions involving marginalized populations. Speakers at the event will include Rediet Abebe, Co-Founder, Mechanism Design for Social Good; Samara Trilling, Software Engineer, Sidewalk Labs; and Anjana Rajan, Technology Entrepreneur and Former CTO, Callisto. 

House Task Force on Artificial Intelligence

Exposure Notification and Contact Tracing: How AI Helps Localities Reopen Safely and Researchers Find a Cure 

At 12:00 PM on Wednesday, online video webinar.

Mobile applications used for contact tracing and exposure notification have become an essential part of the response of health systems in combating the spread of COVID-19, which has proven to be an incredibly infectious disease. Artificial intelligence (AI) developers have also been creating technologies with intriguing potential for mitigating exposure. For example, IBM has been optimizing its Watson Works AI platform for businesses which can analyze data to help a company determine if it’s safe to have particular employees show up to the workplace. The witness panel for this hearing has yet to be announced.

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation 

Can Algorithms Tackle the ‘Infodemic’?

At 12:00 PM on Wednesday, online video webinar.

Among the many deleterious impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is the spread of inaccurate and deliberately false information through Internet platforms including social media, search engines and e-commerce websites. Some website developers have developed automated algorithm-based systems for removing such content but critics argue that the algorithms themselves may be inaccurate or might be biased based on the personal views of program developers. This event features a discussion with a panel including Jeremy Howard, Distinguished Research Scientist, University of San Francisco, and Co-Founder,; Sarah Roberts, Associate Professor and Co-Director, Center for Critical Internet Inquiry, UCLA.

House Committee on the Budget

Fueling American Innovation and Recovery: The Federal Role in Research and Development

At 1:00 PM on Wednesday, online video webinar.

The 2020 fiscal year budget request from the administration of President Donald Trump included several cuts to R&D programs related to basic research and applied research as well as reductions to multiagency R&D initiatives and significant budget cuts for the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Science Administration. The witness panel for this hearing will include Sudip Parikh, Ph.D, CEO, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS); Paul Romer, Ph.D, Professor, New York University; and the Honorable Deborah Wince-Smith, President and CEO, Council on Competitiveness.

American Enterprise Institute

Does Washington Need a New Apollo Program or Manhattan Project to Jump-Start Science Research

At 3:00 PM on Wednesday, online video webinar.

Federal funding for research and development programs in the U.S. has declined over the past few decades but some have suggested that increasing funding levels for R&D could help the nation address low productivity growth levels and threats to its technological dominance from countries like China. This event will explore whether funding should focus on basic research or applied R&D and the level of government oversight that should be attached to research. The event will feature a discussion with a panel including Jonathan Gruber, Ford Professor of Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Tony Mills, Director of Science Policy, R Street Institute; Margaret O’Mara, Howard & Frances Keller Endowed Professor of History, University of Washington; Bret Swanson, Visiting Fellow, AEI; and moderated by James Pethokoukis, DeWitt Wallace Fellow, AEI.

Thursday, July 9

Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

Digitalization: Driving Energy Efficiency for a Connected Future

At 12:00 PM on Thursday, online video webinar.

The incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICT) has led to energy savings in many industrial sectors because of the ability of ICT to optimize energy use to complete energy-intensive activities. Smart manufacturing facilities and smart home appliances are just a couple of examples of systems that can achieve significant energy savings through data analysis that reduces energy consumption. This event features a keynote address by Andreas Urschitz, Division President Power & Sensor Systems, Infineon Technologies. The address will also involve a conversation between Urschitz and Colin Cunliff, Senior Policy Analyst, ITIF. The event will also feature a discussion with a panel including Clay Nesler, Vice President, Global Energy and Regulatory Affairs, Johnson Controls; Ed Rightor, Director of the Industrial Program, ACEEE; and moderated by Hodan Omaar, Policy Analyst, ITIF’s Center for Data Innovation.


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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Pro Say]
    Pro Say
    July 6, 2020 04:34 pm

    “Does Washington Need a New Apollo Program or Manhattan Project to Jump-Start Science Research”

    Actually; what America most needs right now is the abrogation of the unconstitutional Alice and Mayo decisions . . . with a return of patent eligibility to all areas of innovation.

    I know! I know! How ’bout Congress forming a special sub-committee , , , maybe hold some hearings . . . pass a bill.

    You know; stuff like that!