Breaking News Email
Get the latest special alerts and reports. The news and stories that count, delivered on weekday mornings.
by David Ingram
Nearly two years after China had presented its plan to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, states United have published their own playbook.
The document, an executive order of President Donald Trump, explained the views of his administration on the development of artificial intelligence, but left open an important question: where is the money?
"Money speaks when it comes to government priorities and new money actually drives priorities," said R. David Edelman, former President Barack Obama's special assistant for technology policy.
Trump's executive order, which did not include any new funding for the IA research, comes amid increasing tensions over China's ambitious efforts. China in 201
"It's kind of a new arms race," said Theresa Payton, head of the official United States under President George W. Bush.
But AI is not just about weapons. Many politicians, technologists and scholars believe that technology plays a key role in the future of business, governance and practically any other part of human life, by asking difficult questions about compromises between unlimited growth and the need to keep up with an international rival.
"The arms race is about weapons," he said. "But who will be the economic center? Much of this will be based on who owns and controls the latest technologies."
Follow the leader
Although it may be better known by the movies about killer robots, A.I. in real life it has been developed to help automate a variety of tasks from the difficult to the trivial. Researchers are planning A.I. to help diagnose diseases, improve internet services, speed up transport and more accurately target weapons at war. A.I. it is generally understood as a computer code that can improve its capabilities over time based on the data being fed.
China's plan has warned the world about the A.I. ambitions, but it also served to highlight the advantage that the United States had gained. Much of the world's leading research in A.I. it takes place in US private companies like Google, and Trump's executive order does not include a plan to change it.
And the United States continues to be the first destination for global investments in A.I. start-up. CB Insights, a company that tracks venture capital expenditures, found that over half of the $ 19.2 billion invested in A.I. the start-ups in 2018 were directed to companies based in the United States.
Instead, the order tells the heads of federal agencies to consider A.I. as a priority in drawing up research and development plans. Unless Congress gets money, agencies will have to find it by cutting other parts of their budgets, and it's not clear what they could cut or when.
The executive order is Trump's first attempt to expose his views on artificial intelligence. Says A.I. "It promises to drive growth" and that the United States must "maintain leadership" in the field, and warns agencies that the White House expects to pay attention to the topic. It also encourages the availability of big data sets that could be used to train A.I. systems.
To the extent that agencies find money, they would go towards research as well as education and workforce training programs, according to the executive order. But the lack of money is equivalent to an "unfunded mandate", said Payton.
Asked about the absence of new funds, a Trump administration official who speaks of the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak in public, said federal agencies will be required to report on their plans to funding to White House officials, ensuring order compliance
Regarding the Chinese competition, the official said that the administration welcomes collaboration with related partners to promote the beneficial uses of & # 39; IA and also to protect the US technological advantage in AI from contradictory nations.
A hornet's nesting regulation
Experts who spoke with NBC News said they took China seriously as a competitor in the development of A.I. but he noted that public perception of China's current capabilities was overstated.
A document last year by Jeffrey Ding, a researcher at the University of Oxford, Future of Humanity Institute, specialized in A.I. strategy, concluded that the United States was well ahead of China in the sector, with 33% of the total A.I. capacity compared to 17% for China.
"I think there is a significant over-inflation of the Chinese A.I. capacity, especially in US decision-making environments," said Ding.
"I think the United States has a number of structural advantages both in the chip industry that is driving a lot of AI development as well as the number of AI experts and talented people who are contributing to the fundamental innovations in 39; AI. Space, "he said.
Some are skeptical about labeling the competition as a race to the arm with a clear winner, arguing that China and the United States are not in a head-to-head competition as a sporting event. China could take the lead in specific applications and not in others
"It's an incredibly wide set of technologies with an incredibly wide set of applications, so I think it's hard to say that this country is ahead of that or that this company It's ahead of that, "said Michael Chui, a partner of the McKinsey Global Institute, the research arm of the consulting firm McKinsey & Co." It's not like basketball where there's only one score. "
The various applications of IA are one of the reasons why technology can create a hornet's nest for governments and regulators trying to understand how to encourage its development by making sure that it is not abused by private companies or other countries.
Chris Meserole, a colleague of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said that China has already exported artificial recognition software with artificial intelligence in other countries, including those with authoritarian governments.
"I'm not so worried about losing the arms race, I'm more concerned about the impact of human rights around the world," he said. "China is using A.I in ways that are weakening human rights around the world, particularly in their own country."
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., Vice President of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stressed that Trump's executive order did not address this issue – or similar actions from US companies.
"Offers few concrete indications on how the United States should respond to contradictory and harmful uses of the technologies of state and non-state actors, or of cases in which American technology companies work in and with opposing nations in order to undermine civil liberties, privacy and American leadership, "said Warner in a declaration.
of the ways in which competition is expected to occur is with export decisions. US laws restrict the export of certain technologies with military applications and artificial intelligence researchers have wondered if their work could be a future target for stricter controls.
But since the research is so wide, Edelman said it will be difficult for both countries to adopt strict regulations if they want to keep up.
"It is almost impossible to reconcile the desire to win on AI research with the desire to keep A.I. under the enclosures."