What the CIA’s Tech Director Wants from AI

Jens Meyer/AP

Dawn Meyerriecks says staying ahead of Russia and China isn’t as hard as getting U.S. leaders to listen to their own artificial intelligence analysis.

Should the U.S. fear growing Russian progress in artificial intelligence? Last week, Vladimir Putin  told students, “Whoever becomes the leader in this sphere will become the ruler of the world.” That caught the interest of noted AI phobe profiteer Elon Musk who tweeted, simply and ominously: “It begins…”

But the CIA’s head of technology development has a different take. Dawn Meyerriecks is less worried about rival nation states might use AI to outflank the United States than about getting U.S.leaders to believe what AI is telling them. “If I want to increase [ certainty in a particular AI-aided assessment] what goes into it? What do I need in order to make a really good assessment on the back-end because that tells me what sort of collection I need to raise confidence to go address national leadership?”

The CIA currently has 137 pilot projects directly related to artificial intelligence, Meyerriecks, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology, told the Intelligence and National Security Summit in downtown DC. These “experiments” include everything from automatically tagging objects in video (so analysts can pay attention to what’s important) to better predicting future events based on big data and correlational evidence.

“Can we back into correlations with cause and effect that will allow us to be more predictive with what’s about to go down, like the North Koreans are about to launch this or about to do this. We have that in pockets,” she said.

When asked whether she was worried that U.S. prowess in artificial intelligence was falling behind that of China and Russia, Meyerriecks said, “I bet on the innovation and on the systems engineering of the United States every time. One of the things we talk about with In-Q-Tel [the CIA’s venture capital arm] is, as long as we’re going faster than everybody behind us, I don’t want to think about how we find them off [from catching up to the U.S. in AI]. I just want to go faster than they can keep up. If there’s a bear in the woods, you just have to be faster than the slowest person.”

Russia’s interest in AI is both well-established and overhyped. Consider, on Monday, Kremlin-backed news site Sputnik ran a story about a new Russian supercomputer for deep learning, part of a “conversational” AI project called iPavlov.  

“The computing power is fundamentally important for deep learning,” Mikhail Burtsev of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology told Sputnik. “The more powerful hardware we have, the more complex neural network architecture we will be able to work with. The complexity of the model often allows us to make a revolutionary breakthrough in solving practical problems,” he said.

The hardware powering the effort was the 170-teraflop DGX-1 server from NVIDIA, the California-based maker of graphics processing unit chips. Jeff Herbst, NVIDIA’s vice president of business development, seated next to Meyerriecks, seemed amused by the news. “We sell those to everyone,” he said.

Even if U.S. industry, if not the government, retains a technological lead in artificial intelligence development, there are real contrasts in the way the U.S. and other rival nations use it. Russia has shown an increased willingness to mix artificial intelligence and guns and lethal ground robots.

The U.S. government’s approach to AI is much more conservative. For Meyerriecks, the biggest challenge in applying cutting-edge AI products and techniques to intel collection and reporting is convincing leaders in government – including the President – to accept intel that comes, at least in part, from a robot, she said.

“We produce a presidential daily brief. We have to have really, really good evidence for why we reach the conclusions that we do. One of the things that’s a challenge for the current AI community, one of the things I’m positive will get addressed, is…you can’t go to leadership and make a recommendation based on a process that no one understands.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.