Trump Prioritizes AI—But Doesn’t Commit to Funding It
Matthew Greenwood posted on February 27, 2019 |
Executive order instructs government agencies to put more resources and investment in the field.,c_limit/OpEd-Trump-1094193374-2.jpg

The Trump administration wants to put the U.S. at the forefront of artificial intelligence (AI) research and development, and it is directing agencies to put the technology on the top of their priority lists. Also, agencies are directed to share their data and models with AI developers and to come up with plans to help workers adapt to AI in the workplace.

"Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” said the President.

Trump’s executive order emphasizes how AI is helping create the “industries of the future” like autonomous cars, industrial robots, algorithms for disease diagnosis, and more.

Last year, administration officials met with over 30 major companies investing in AI—from manufacturing giants like Ford and Boeing, to technology innovators like Amazon and Microsoft. The White House stated it wouldn’t stand in the way of their work on the technology.

This executive order demonstrates the administration’s continued interest in AI, emphasizing the need for government to get better at tracking and reporting AI-related research and development spending.

However, the order made no mention of funding, which makes some in the industry skeptical. “There is considerable concern the U.S. federal government is not doing enough to support AI research and deployment,” says the Brookings Institute.

The U.S. already has a significant advantage in AI. But it’s in danger of being overtaken by competitors—namely China.

The federal government invests $1.1 billion in non-classified AI technology. But this pales in comparison to China’s $150-billion commitment over the next decade. And China has made it clear that it intends to surpass the U.S. technologically in the field by 2030.

Bloomberg Technology discusses Trump's AI executive order.

The White House said more information about the initiative would be revealed over the next six months, according to media reports.

The President’s order noted the concerns and dangers around AI development—including ethical issues about control, privacy and cybersecurity. It also is aware of the displacements AI could make on the job market: a PwC study last year said 30 percent of jobs are at potential risk of automation by the mid 2030s.

“Ultimately, we will win the race for AI,” said White House policy advisor Michael Kratsidis. “And we will do it without compromising our American values...freedom, human rights, the rule of law, privacy, free and open markets, respect for intellectual property, and the opportunity to pursue the American dream.”

Read more about the Trump administration's positions on manufacturing and technology at United Steelworkers Disappointed with President Trump’s SOTU Address.

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