Trump Stumps For AI R&D, Education

Says government data should be open to non-federal AI community
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Add artificial intelligence (AI) to the list of things — 5G, for another example — that the U.S. needs to be first in, according to President Donald Trump.

That is according to a new executive order, the Protecting the United States Advantage in Artificial Intelligence and Related Critical Technologies National Security Presidential Memorandum [NPSM], which the President issued on Monday (Feb. 11).

President Trump has directed that AI research be considered a priority, with relevant agencies required to identify annually to the Office of Management and Budget and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy which programs need funding and how much they need.

See also: What AI Could Mean For Consumer Tech Retail

That is based on the promise of AI to "drive growth of the United States economy, enhance our economic and national security, and improve our quality of life," said the President, who remains focused on winning, per the following "musts":

"(a) The United States must drive technological breakthroughs in AI across the Federal Government, industry, and academia in order to promote scientific discovery, economic competitiveness, and national security.

"(b) The United States must drive development of appropriate technical standards and reduce barriers to the safe testing and deployment of AI technologies in order to enable the creation of new AI-related industries and the adoption of AI by today's industries.

(c) "The United States must train current and future generations of American workers with the skills to develop and apply AI technologies to prepare them for today's economy and jobs of the future.

(d) "The United States must foster public trust and confidence in AI technologies and protect civil liberties, privacy, and American values in their application in order to fully realize the potential of AI technologies for the American people.

(e) "The United States must promote an international environment that supports American AI research and innovation and opens markets for American AI industries, while protecting our technological advantage in AI and protecting our critical AI technologies from acquisition by strategic competitors and adversarial nations."

Watch: What You Need To Know About AI

Agencies that give out educational grants are directed to prioritize AI in those programs, including STEM programs, but with priority given to American citizens.

Government agencies are also directed to open access to computing resources to the non-federal AI computing community, while protecting security and privacy. The public will get a chance to weigh in on what access they need or how to improve AI R&D and testing.

Among the issues the executive order tees up are approaches, regulatory and nonregulatory, to technologies and industrial sectors empowered by AI and ways to reduce barriers to the use of AI.

The Department of Commerce is directed within 180 days to issue a plan for the development of technical standards for "reliable, robust, and trustworthy" systems that employ AI.

"We thank President Trump for making artificial intelligence (AI) and apprenticeships a top priority," said Consumer Technology Association president Gary Shapiro. "Advancements in AI technology hold the promise of improving every sector of our economy and society, from health care and transportation to entertainment and security.

"AI requires a discussion on the future of work and for questions to be raised about jobs, bias, cybersecurity and other issues."

Pointing to China's plans for AI dominance, including investing $2 billion in AI research in Beijing, Shapiro said: "It's critical that the U.S. government expand its understanding of AI, share its findings with researchers and plan for the anticipated benefits and risks as other countries dedicate investment and research on AI."

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), chairman of the Commerce Committee, said the order will strengthen the U.S. global position, including by creating an AI-capable workforce.

“Artificial Intelligence has great potential to benefit the American people, while enhancing our nation’s security and growing our economy,” said Wicker in a statement. “Today’s executive order will ensure that the United States remains a leader in emerging technologies and scientific development. I look forward to working with the President to guarantee AI is fueled by American innovation, while protecting consumer data privacy and American values.”

“With AI growing at a rapid pace, we need to take action to ensure that our adversaries and near peers aren’t able to target this emerging tech and use it in malicious ways,” said House Homeland Security Ranking Member Mike Rogers (R-Ala.). “Today’s announcement demonstrates that President Trump recognizes that the United States cannot coast on our thriving innovation economy to maintain our leadership in AI, but must actively engage so that it does not become a threat to our national and economic security interests."

“The White House announcement today is a good step toward a national strategy for AI," said Software & Information Industry Association senior VP Mark MacCarthy. "We especially praise the White House’s emphasis on open data, which requires maintaining incentives for private sector developed data in government data sets. SIIA strongly supports the focus on oversight of AI as used in context rather than generic regulations.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a former tech exec himself, had some issues with the order.

“AI holds enormous promise, with diverse applications across almost every imaginable sector and an array of implications in the national security context, as well. Our strategic competitors fully understand the stakes and have devoted enormous resources to outpacing the U.S. in this area. At the same time, if we’ve learned anything from the last two years, it’s that U.S. policy should be much more thoughtful in the consideration of emerging technologies – particularly in modeling their misuse. I applaud a number of aspects of the executive order, such as the proposal – mirroring the white paper I released last summer – to open federal data-sets to non-federal entities.

“Overall, however, the tone of this executive order reflects a laissez-faire approach to AI development that I worry will have the U.S. repeating the mistakes it has made in treating digital technologies as inherently positive forces, with insufficient consideration paid to their misapplication ....

“Lastly, while the executive order explicitly references the activities of strategic competitors and adversarial nations, it offers little concrete guidance on how the U.S. should respond to adversarial and malicious uses of AI technologies by state and non-state actors alike, nor does it address instances where American technology companies are working in and with adversary nations in ways that undermine civil liberties, privacy, and American leadership.”

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