The Trump administration hasn’t stayed quiet on space operations control, hence the Space Force initiative, but it did not take a stance on artificial intelligence… until today.
Later today, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will mark the creation of the “American AI Initiative”.
This initiative will, for one thing, redirect federal funding and other types of resources towards AI research. Federal agencies will have to prioritize AI investments and send out reports on how the funding is being used.
Researchers will benefit from the federal data gathered and will have access to the processing power needed to improve areas like healthcare and transportation.
In addition, government bodies such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be in charge of creating the standards for reliable and secure AI systems development.
Another goal of the initiative is to collaborate with international research institutions to speed up the progress made in artificial intelligence, while ensuring the resulting technology works towards supporting the American values and interests.
The premises are not surprising, but the lack of detail is. There are no timelines set, yet; instead, the administration promises to answer our questions in the upcoming months.
So far, the initiative has been met with enthusiasm by the likes of Jason Furman, who served as chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
“The administration’s American AI Initiative includes all of the right elements; the critical test will be to see if they follow through in a vigorous manner,” Furman stated, only to voice his reservations later: “The plan is aspirational with no details and is not self-executing.”
The order comes at a time when tensions between the U.S and China are high – the trade war between the two countries is still ongoing and the U.S filed criminal charges against Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from American tech companies and attempting to go around the sanctions U.S has imposed on Iran.
It begs the question if the U.S is pushing this program to get a head start on China, which might be thinking of advancing its own AI programs by stealing American tech. When asked about this, a White House official said: “The US is the world leader in artificial intelligence. It is not surprising to us that the Chinese are interested in this particular domain and are spending and investing heavily.”
The U.S is not the first country to launch this type of program though. In fact, it’s one of the last developed nations to do it; the Canadian Government announced its very own Pan-Canadian AI Strategy in 2017. This announcement was quickly followed by similar ones from no less than 18 countries, including the UAE, France and China.
The White House’s lax politics when it comes to AI were criticized in the past. The US defense secretary in 2017, Jim Mattis, sent a memo to the White House arguing that the country is not keeping up with the AI developments made by not only China but other countries as well.
Reportedly, the memo advised the White House to establish a presidential commission that could inspire “a whole of country effort that will ensure the U.S. is a leader not just in matters of defense but in the broader ‘transformation of the human condition.”
Finally, it looks like this administration understands how important it is for the US to set in place both a solid AI policy and solid funds to develop it in order to maintain its military power and influence overseas.