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Xuming He joins national panel discussion on AI in government

Xuming He, chair of the new Department of Statistics and Data Science, discussed how statisticians will play a vital role as AI is used by the federal government.

Xuming He, chair of the new Department of Statistics and Data Science, participated in a virtual panel discussion addressing an urgent issue: the potential power of artificial intelligence to transform government. The October webinar — titled “AI in Federal Government: Uses, Potential Applications, and Issues” — was organized by the National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) and the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM).

Xuming He

Artificial intelligence has the power to help government agencies develop economic policies, deliver benefits, and protect the environment. But He, who is also president of the International Statistical Institute, stressed that machines can’t improve government on their own. “Integration of machine intelligence and human intelligence is what we really need,” he said during the panel.

The federal government’s approach to AI will have global repercussions, He said. “There’s no doubt that the world looks to the U.S. federal government as a leader in AI use,” he said. “Government leaders are under pressure to find out what AI can do. It’s a moment of both significant opportunity and complexity.” He emphasized that human intelligence, including statistical reasoning and principles, has unlimited potential — especially when AI is embraced wholeheartedly.

He joined WashU in July as the inaugural chair of the department. A proponent of interdisciplinary research in data science, he is working to strengthen statistical research and education across the university, including the fields of biomedical sciences, Earth and planetary sciences, psychological and brain sciences, and economics. Statisticians in academia and government will have to collaborate to make AI more effective and trustworthy, He said.

The webinar’s other panelists included Nancy Potok, former chief statistician of the United States; Bhramar Mukherjee, professor and chair of the Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan; Michael Hawes, senior advisor for data access and privacy at the U.S. Census Bureau; and Chris S. Marcum, senior statistician and senior science policy analyst in the Office of the Chief Statistician of the United States.