April Meeting Report: Visiting From the White House

By Ann Nye —

Visiting from the White House, 2006 PVHS alumna, Tess DeBlanc-Knowles, currently works as a Senior Policy Advisor for Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.  After graduating from Georgetown University and working at a number of different jobs, she got the opportunity to work as a staff person on the Independent Commission on National Security on Artificial Intelligence that was established in 2019.  The commission report came out in March 2021.

Note:  the time refers to the time location in the video below. 

0:55  Tess DeBlanc- Knowles introduces herself and her career path to the White House and how she deviated from her pre-med track.

14:02  Closing remarks about career paths and the breadth of opportunities in Federal service.


Comments and Questions from the audience

15:34  Connie Sullivan reminded us that Tess is a friend of her son from high school and the reason why she is talking to us today.  Connie stated, Elon Musk says there’s going to be an AI dictator who is going to rule the world, and then asked, do you see that coming?
A:  “I don’t see that coming, but ….”

17:58  Allison Phillips asked, which country is our main competitor in AI?
A:  “Definitely China is far and away our primary competitor ….”

18:59  Ann asked how Tess’ AI group is working with other people in Computer Science that are trying to stop hacks into our infrastructure – is there any cross-pollination between government groups?
A:  “There’s a lot of work at the intersection between both AI and disinformation and AI and cyber security ….”  Tess doesn’t personally work on it, but there are a lot of folks that do.

19:53  Allison Phillips asked is bitcoin and crypto currency under your purview?
A:  “No, but the tech division of her group is working on it ….”  There is a recent executive order to investigate the viability of a US digital currency and the climate impacts of block chain and crypto currency.

20:58  David Hall asked did Tess’s group look at AI to address the threats of Climate Change?
A:  “Not directly ….”   But, she mentioned there are a lot of ways for AI to drive the scientific process, like with smart buildings and vehicles.

During her talk, Tess said, “ai.gov has an in-depth view … and gives you a picture of all that’s going on across the Federal government in the AI space.”

 Here’s the online Executive Summary of the Final Report  – National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence – https://www.nscai.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Final_Report_Executive_Summary.pdf

Here’s the interactive version of the report that Tess said is easily consumable if any of our members want to take a deeper dive into the content – https://reports.nscai.gov/final-report/table-of-contents/

A post meeting note:  During the meeting, someone asked Tess about internships, and she replied that the White House internship program had not yet reopened since COVID-19.   However, after looking into it this past Friday (4/29), Tess said, “the Executive Office of the President internship program just announced the launch of summer and fall internships. For the first time these are being offered as paid positions. The deadlines are tight for the summer session (applications due by May 14th), but here is the listing for the Office of Science and Technology Policy in case your members would be interested to pass it along to students/recent graduates in their networks:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/ostp/internship/.



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