Keeping Up With The Competition
The urgency of the American AI Initiative comes on the heels of other countries’ announcements of their forward-thinking AI strategies, led by Canada’s Pan-Canadian AI Strategy in March 2017 and followed by China’s New Generation of Artificial Intelligence Development Plan in July. All in, 18 countries across the globe have a strategy in place to develop, adopt, and manage AI. The United States is now part of the count.
AI for Industry and Defense
The American AI Initiative seeks to maintain the lead in industry. Coordinated through the National Science and Technology Council Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence, the priorities of the order will be AI research and development to secure the U.S. position in global economics.
Additionally, a component of the initiative focuses on national security. The order enables the Department of Defense to generate AI systems aimed at protecting national interests and military advantages.
While the executive order stands as a hallmark legitimizing AI as a resource, it may not be robust enough to move the needle on AI research and development. The call to action is evaluative, a request for information that seeks recommendations from government agencies to report current systems and identify AI initiatives. The order does not specify steps or a timeline toward fully harnessing AI on a national scale.
Also absent in the order is a funding objective. Without any financial investment to support the initiative, it’s questionable whether the U.S. will achieve its industry goals. Comparatively, China has an aggressive AI policy that prioritizes funding to meet their goal to be the global AI leader by 2030.
Calling Ethics Into Question
The American AI Initiative also includes the development of AI standards to regulate the use of the tech, and with standardization of AI comes serious questions of ethics. Government regulation of tech raises issues of privacy and rights, opening a whole Pandora’s Box about decision-makers’ authority and qualifications; who gets to decide and what gives them the right to do so? Who will watch the watcher? Coupled with too little mention of the public’s influence on the direction for AI, the order lacks integrity and does not satisfactorily offer protection against abuses of power.
Just The First Step?
The President’s executive order serves to crack the door on development of an AI strategy, but it seems far too reactionary and not comprehensive enough to meet the demands of a real plan that must account for global competition, national security, and civil rights. As such, it is short-sighted to meet any financial or ethical burden of implementing AI. Given that administration officials plan to release a more detailed plan in six months, this order works best as a first draft rather than the final strategy.