Trump Seeks to Ramp Up U.S. Efforts on Artificial Intelligence
14 February 2019
President Trump issued on 11 February an executive order on artificial intelligence that seeks to ramp up U.S. efforts to remain a leader in this critical segment, which the administration considers “of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States.” This action comes two years after mainland China announced a detailed plan to become a global leader in AI. Other economies, including South Korea, Canada and France, have also made major commitments to improving their AI technologies.
The EO sets forth the following six strategic objectives to promote and protect U.S. advancements in AI.
- Promote sustained investment in AI research and development in collaboration with industry, academia, international partners and allies, and other non-federal entities to generate technological breakthroughs in AI and related technologies and to rapidly transition those breakthroughs into capabilities that contribute to U.S. economic and national security.
- Enhance access to high-quality and fully traceable federal data, models and computing resources to increase the value of such resources for AI R&D, while maintaining safety, security, privacy and confidentiality protections consistent with applicable laws and policies.
- Reduce barriers to the use of AI technologies to promote their innovative application while protecting American technology, economic and national security, civil liberties, privacy and values.
- Ensure that technical standards minimise vulnerability to attacks from malicious actors, reflect federal priorities for innovation, public trust and public confidence in systems that use AI technologies, and develop international standards to promote and protect those priorities.
- Train the next generation of American AI researchers and users through apprenticeships, skills programme and education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, with an emphasis on computer science, to ensure that American workers are capable of taking full advantage of the opportunities of AI.
- Develop and implement an action plan to protect the advantage of the United States in AI and technology critical to U.S. economic and national security interests against strategic competitors and foreign adversaries.
A new National Science and Technology Council Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence has been tasked with co-0rdinating this effort. The EO also directs heads of implementing agencies that also perform or fund R&D to consider AI as an agency R&D priority when developing budget proposals and planning for the use of funds in fiscal year 2020 and beyond.
The administration is pledging to maintain security and confidentiality protections, saying that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Domestic Policy Council and the National Economic Council will work with regulatory agencies to craft guidance to promote innovation while respecting privacy, civil liberties and American values. The National Institute of Standards and Technology will work with the Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence to prioritise the creation of the technical standards needed for AI development and deployment. The EO does not lay out a specific timeline or tangible goals on AI, nor does it direct Congress to appropriate any new funds for AI programmes. Instead, it suggests that federal agencies take the lead in setting aside more money and resources. Administration officials said a more detailed plan would come over the 180 days specified in the EO for plan development.
While the EO does not specifically mention other countries’ AI development, it does express a desire to promote an international environment that supports U.S. AI research and innovation and open markets for U.S. AI industries while protecting critical AI technologies from acquisition by strategic competitors and adversarial nations.
The Obama administration in 2016 released a plan on AI and some observers believe the current EO incorporates some elements of that plan. Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (Republican-Mississippi) released a statement in support of this action, noting that AI “has great potential to benefit the American people, while enhancing our nation’s security and growing our economy; today’s executive order will ensure that the United States remains a leader in emerging technologies and scientific development.”
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