News & Insights for the AI Journey|Friday, April 19, 2019
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White House Launches AI Initiative 

A Trump administration AI initiative would prioritize federal R&D investments in machine intelligence as a way boosting U.S. economic and national security.

The “American AI Initiative” launched via executive order on Monday (Feb. 11) seeks to align early AI investments by science and technology agencies, including the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), with industry efforts.

Along with promoting basic research into AI technology, the plan seeks to increase access to federal data and high-performance computing resources. Acknowledging the unforeseen consequences of AI deployment, it also seeks to promote “a responsible approach to AI by encouraging transformative applications….”

Mindful of AI’s potential impact on the U.S. workers, the White House also directed federal agencies to development workforce training programs to develop “AI-relevant skills.” NSF and other agencies already have plans in the works for such workforce efforts, including $30 million in research grants under a program called “Future of Work at the Human-Technology Frontier.”

Industry groups praised the initiative, saying federal R&D initiatives would boost productivity and U.S. economic growth while keeping pace with global technology rivals like China. They also urged increased federal spending on basic AI research beyond existing NSF and DoD programs.

“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,” noted the Center for Data Innovation.

The Washington-based group advocates increased agencies spending earmarked for AI R&D along with “light-touch regulation” of AI, including relaxed export controls. “It should implement comprehensive reforms to the nation’s workforce training and adjustment policies,” the group added.

“There is a definite need for a strong partnership among government, enterprise and research,” added Pranay Agrawal, CEO and co-founder of Fractal Analytics. The White House initiative’s plan to leverage government data for AI research also is welcome, Agrawal said. “AI ventures will accelerate due to this.”

DARPA is among the largest investors in AI technology. The research agency announced a multi-year, $2 billion initiative last fall focused on developing machine “common sense” reasoning. The lack of native intelligence in machines is seen as among the main barriers to advancing beyond narrow to general AI applications that are increasingly seen as too “brittle” for advanced uses.

The White House initiative follows creation of a congressional advisory panel last month charged with examining how AI can be used on the battlefield. DoD is reportedly seeking to shift as much as $70 million in current funding to establish a joint AI center.

 

 

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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