Wed, Feb 13, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Trump prioritizes artificial intelligence

COMPLACENCE:The US should not presume that its leadership in AI innovation is guaranteed, the White House said, while pundits called for more concrete action


US President Donald Trump steps off Air Force One upon arrival at El Paso International Airport for a rally in Texas on Monday.

Photo: AFP

US President Donald Trump on Monday ordered the US government to give greater priority to artificial intelligence (AI), a move seen as firing up a battle for leadership with China.

The American AI Initiative executive order calls for the US administration to “devote the full resources of the federal government” to help fuel AI innovation.

“Americans have profited tremendously from being the early developers and international leaders in AI,” a White House statement said.

“However, as the pace of AI innovation increases around the world, we cannot sit idly by and presume that our leadership is guaranteed,” it said.

However, the order stops short of specific funding or a detailed strategy for deployment of artificial intelligence.

The move came amid growing concerns that China will overtake the US in key areas of artificial intelligence, helped by a broad national strategy and accelerating investment.

Darrell West, director of the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation, said the White House move was “timely,” but that it remained uncertain how it would be implemented without clear funding.

“The president sometimes launches initiatives that sound good but have little actual impact,” West said. “China is investing US$150 billion by 2030 with the goal of becoming the pre-eminent AI country in the world. It is important for the US to keep pace because AI will transform many different sectors.”

Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation, another Washington-based think tank, which follows technology issues, offered a similarly cautious response.

“If the administration wants its AI initiative to be transformative, it will need to do more than reprogram existing funds for AI research, skill development and infrastructure development,” he said.

Castro welcomed the initiative, but called for a more comprehensive AI strategy that covers areas such as digital free trade, data collection policies and other issues.

US Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, called the initiative a “good start.”

“China is the most comprehensive challenge we have faced from a near peer adversary in over half a century. Confronting it will require a comprehensive response,” Rubio tweeted.

The White House said the plan calls for “unleashing AI” by making more resources available to researchers, setting guidelines for regulations, promoting AI in education and improving US competitiveness.

The statement made no mention of China, but called for “an action plan to protect the advantage of the US in AI and technology critical to United States national and economic security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.”

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