UT’s Parker Leading White House, NSF Effort to Boost Artificial Intelligence

Lynne Parker, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UT, has been serving as the National Science Foundation's Division Director of Information and Intelligent Systems since 2015. She recently led a White House task force on artificial intelligence.

Lynne Parker, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UT, has been serving as the National Science Foundation’s Division Director of Information and Intelligent Systems since 2015. She recently led a White House task force on artificial intelligence.

The concept of artificial intelligence and automated machinery dates back at least as far as Greek mythology and has more recently found a place in science fiction novels, movies, and TV shows.

The White House recently announced a series of initiatives aimed at bringing the technology to more widespread use, with UT researcher leading the way.

The National Science Foundation’s Lynne Parker—who is also a professor of electrical engineering and computer science in UT’s Tickle College of Engineering—serves as the NSF’s division director for information and intelligent systems.

Through that role, the White House directed her to co-lead a group of top experts across several federal agencies in building the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan.

“This plan is part of a larger effort to prepare the United States for a future where artificial intelligence is playing an increasing role,” said Parker. “In our report we felt a need to explore the challenges, promises and current state of AI, and what it will take to get where we want to be in the future.”

That report was delivered at the White House Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh, with President Barack Obama telling the audience that he loved science and didn’t make apologies for being a “geek” and a “nerd” when it came to the topic.

Parker said her team also felt it critical to demonstrate how AI could benefit society in the coming years, and to set a framework for federal research to follow.

“Planning, prioritizing, and implementing AI research according to national and scientific priorities is critical,” said Parker. “Just as importantly, we knew we had to address potential challenges and concerns.”

As an example of those potentially sensitive topics, Parker’s team explored the impact of AI on the economy, of safety aspects, and on national security, including the fact that China has passed the U.S. in a number of key categories in recent years.

The team also confronted the public reaction to AI, noting that any new developments must be done in an ethical and transparent manner.

CONTACT:

David Goddard (865-974-0683, david.goddard@utk.edu)