Artificial Intelligence

Report: U.S. Needs a National AI Strategy

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If the United States wants to maintain its leadership stance in the world for development and use of artificial intelligence, it's time to adopt a national strategy. That's the conclusion of a report developed by the Center for Data Innovation, a self-described thinktank that studies the "intersection of data, technology and public policy." According to Senior Policy Analyst Joshua New, finding success with AI requires more than a bunch of companies investing in it. It also needs the federal government to support the development and adoption of AI in areas such as research, skills development and data usage.

According to New, many other countries, including China, France and the United Kingdom, are setting up "significant initiatives" to grab global market share in AI. While the U.S. government has taken some steps, he wrote, "it lacks a comprehensive strategy to proactively spur the development and adoption of AI."

Why the big emphasis on AI all of a sudden? New quoted from consulting firm PwC, which predicted last year that AI would increase the global gross domestic product measure by up to 14 percent by 2030 through productivity gains in business process automation and augmentation of human labor. In the United States, according to a 2016 report by Accenture, AI could add two percentage points to the annual growth rate of the economy, lifting it from 2.6 percent to 4.6 percent by 2035.

Overall, New suggested, an American national AI strategy could boost economic competitiveness, support defense capabilities and overcome regulatory or other hurdles that could slow AI development and adoption.

The Trump administration has taken some steps to support AI, the report noted. In May 2018, the White House held a summit on AI, which brought together representatives from technology companies to discuss methods for fostering the advancement of AI. Though that event didn't result in the establishment of any new policies, it did lead to the creation of a Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence under the National Science and Technology Council to advise the White House on AI issues, improve coordination of federal AI research and development, and identify opportunities for leveraging federal data and computing resources to support AI R&D. In September 2018, The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program issued a request for information to update a national AI R&D Strategic Plan originally released in 2016 under the Obama administration. Currently, New wrote, the existing strategic plan "amounts to the most substantive and comprehensive effort to maximize the benefits of AI for the United States, however this document does not direct policy, funding, or regulation."

The report provided six goals to serve as an outline for a comprehensive national AI strategy, each with corresponding policy recommendations to implement it:

  • To support key AI organizational "inputs" — access to three resources: "high-value data, AI skills and publicly funded R&D";
  • To expedite public-sector adoption of AI; for example, defense agencies could apply AI to enhance national security;
  • To promote AI development and adoption in industries such as healthcare, transportation and education through funding, procurement and regulation;
  • To support digital free trade policies and "fight other protectionist efforts that inhibit AI";
  • To encourage innovation-friendly regulation, built around the principles of "algorithmic accountability," in which those operating the algorithms are held accountable for the harms they cause; and
  • To provide workers with better tools to manage AI-driven workforce transitions, especially in situations where workers are displaced.

"The benefits of AI — to the competitiveness of firms in the United States, to economic growth, to government operations, and to social welfare — and the risks of falling behind are too vast for policymakers to either sit on the sidelines hoping private-sector action is enough, or to believe that the government's main role should be shaping and constraining AI through regulation without concerning themselves with the challenges the private sector faces," New concluded. "It is time for a national AI development and adoption strategy."

The report is openly available on the Center for Data Innovation website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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