A task force is taking a closer look at the future of artificial intelligence in Vermont

Local News

NORWICH, Vt. – The Vermont Legislature has asked a task force to investigate the field of artificial intelligence and make recommendations for how the state should move forward.

The task force, composed of 14 members with experience in technology, law and healthcare, have spent the last month holding public hearings on AI at various locations across the state. On Tuesday, they were at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich.

In an era where AI is responsible for self-driving cars, face recognition technology and more efficient farming, a large portion of industries have a stake in the conversation.

“We’ve spoken to the medical industry, the transportation industry, law enforcement, criminal justice, manufacturing, agriculture, natural resources, and the construction industry,” said Brian Breslend, Co-chair of the task force.

Despite the advances in technology AI is responsible for, the task force acknowledged the risks. In May, San Francisco became the first city to ban the use of facial recognition technology by police. Last year, an Arizona woman was struck and killed by a self-driving Uber.

Eugene Santos, a task force member and professor at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth, said anticipating problems that could arise from AI in the future is a large part of what the task force is trying to do.

“There’s a number of very interesting questions regarding policy,” Santos said. “People talk about AI job loss. Is there a way, for example, for an AI employment tax? Should we regulate or regulate to help do something?”

The task force is due to report back to the legislature in January. The recommendations they’ll deliver center around responsible growth of AI in in Vermont’s technology markets as well as within state government itself.

They’ve also been tasked with a seemingly simple goal – define AI. This would allow the state, should it establish a permanent commission within the legislature, to know what falls under the AI umbrella. In Act 137, the legislation that created the task force, it’s defined as “models and systems performing functions generally associated with human intelligence, such as reasoning and learning.”

The task force has yet to agree on a single definition, but Santos offered his personal one.

“Any man-made system that is making a decision from a whole variety of decisions.”

Additional public hearings on AI will be held in Manchester, Vermont on October 10 and at the Vermont Tech Jam, which takes place at the Champlain Valley Exposition on October 17.

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