Does the US Government need to radically up its AI game?

Study out of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence argues Uncle Sam must end cuts in investment if it wants to maintain a competitive advantage – especially against China

Posted 13 November 2019 by Gary Flood

The US has sunk back to pre-Sputnink levels of long-term national spend on research while China could overtake the country in R&D spending in the next decade.

And as a result, unless the Federal Government changes its mind over 5% cuts to R&D (Research and Development) spending in its proposed 2020 Budget, the Chinese state will soon be investing more.

‘Digitally Connected, Of Course’ by Techsource Network on Flickr (c) all rights reserved

That could be a big problem when it comes to America’s overall competitiveness in the field of AI (Artificial Intelligence), argues the source of these warning – a report from the National Security
Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

That’s an independent Federal commission helping the United States set up to help US policymakers determine what actions they might need to take to ensure America’s national security enterprise “has the tools it needs to maintain US global leadership”.

AI is seen as a key focus here, as in the summer the body argued that, “AI has emerged as one of the most important technologies for national security [because] America’s level of AI competence will affect almost every aspect of American life, from developing more effective ways to educate the people to changing the way we earn wages to defending against cyber-attacks and on the battlefield.”

So the stakes are seen as pretty high, then – and in its Interim Report, it seems to have come down very much on the side of active interventionism.

Thus a call that Washington must step up its investment and co-operation with the American tech industry so as to maintain a competitive advantage against foreign adversaries.

The study also argues that more thought must be given to the downstream impact of American science policy, as the impact of reduced R&D investment in AI will create an American “brain drain” out of academia to industry.

That’s because US central government’s willingness to cut initial investment spending will cause later issues with workforce training and development in those fields.

“This trend damages our ability to train the next generation and influences the direction of research toward more commercially-applied problems,” the report’s authors, warn. “The [American] government must help redirect this trend soon.”

“AI is integral to the technological revolution that we are
now experiencing,” says the report.

“[And so] how the United States adopts AI will have profound ramifications
for our immediate security, economic well-being, and position in the world.

“The United States confronts hard choices between economic and security interests, between maintaining our openness and protecting our innovation economy from strategic competitors, and between commercial and national objectives, all while balancing short and long-term considerations.

“The issues are too complex and vast for any part of government, society, or industry to address alone [so] arriving at good solutions will require the work of the entire nation.”