US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to boost the development and regulation of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, as many experts believe AI will define the future of everything from consumer products to health care to warfare.
The executive order includes the American AI Initiative, which aims to better educate workers in the field, improve access to cloud computing services and data needed to build AI systems, and promote cooperation with foreign powers.
The order also calls on agencies to protect civil liberties, privacy and American values in applying AI technologies, and to help workers gain relevant skills through fellowships, apprenticeships, training programmes and computer science education.
AI-based technologies such as facial recognition can be used to enhance government surveillance, while studies have found that computers are susceptible to the same racial and gender biases as the humans whose data they learn from.
Tech leaders from industry and academia have pushed the Trump administration to develop a national AI strategy. The White House in December hosted a listening session with the CEOs of Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Qualcomm to field ideas for securing American dominance in AI and other fields.
There is also one big motivator of the new AI drive, China. The US government worries about China’s ambitions in technology, and an ongoing push to rein in trade abuses is in part an attempt to ensure America doesn’t lose its competitive edge.
In November, the commerce department asked for public comment on a proposal to curb exports of certain technologies, including AI. Such rules would restrict US businesses from sending some products overseas.
In July 2017, the Chinese unveiled a plan to become the world leader in AI, aiming to create an industry worth $150bn to its economy by 2030, and two Chinese cities promised to invest $7bn in the effort. Other governments, too, began making large investments, including South Korea, Britain, France, and Canada.