The American AI Initiative

It’s no news that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is going to be big. According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, AI is estimated to add 15.7 trillion USD to the global economy by 2030. AI technology has the possibility to transform the productivity and GDP of a nation, but to realize AI’s potential countries need to make strategic investments. PwC anticipates that the greatest economic gains from AI will be in China (26 percent boost to GDP in 2030) and North America (14.5 percent boost), thus accounting for almost 70 percent of the global economic impact.

Most of the US AI funding is currently provided by the private sector, where tech giants such as Amazon, Microsoft, Google/Alphabet, and IBM are pumping billions of dollars into AI-related R&D.  But the private sector has a greater interest in short-term profits, which is why it is crucial for nations to develop strategies for AI and dedicate funding to academia and industry for high-risk AI projects that may take decades to pay off.

As a step towards strengthening the US position as a world leader in tech, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence on February 11, 2019. The order is a “concerted effort to promote and protect national AI technology and innovation” (ai.gov). The Initiative implements a whole-of-government strategy in collaboration and engagement with the private sector, academia, the public, and like-minded international partners, and the order calls for agencies to “promote sustained investment in AI R&D,” “enhance access to high-quality and fully traceable Federal data, models, and computing resources,” and “train the next generation of American AI researchers and users”.

The coordination and execution of the order lies on the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Select Committee, and the initiative is guided by five principles which has been summarized by Future of Life as:

  • Driving technological breakthroughs
  • Driving the development of appropriate technical standards
  • Training workers with the skills to develop and apply AI technologies
  • Protecting American values including civil liberties and privacy and fostering public trust and confidence in AI technologies
  • Protecting US technological advantage in AI, while promoting an international environment that supports innovation.

Furthermore, agencies and executive departments that are working with development and deployment of AI in any way are required to comply with the following strategic objectives: promoting sustained investment in AI R&D; enhancing access to Federal data, models, and computing resources; reducing barriers to the use of AI technologies; ensuring that technical standards minimize vulnerability to attacks from malicious actors; training American AI researchers; and implementing an action plan to protect US economic and security interests.

Official White House. President Trump’s signing of the Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in AI. Photo: Joyce N. Boghosian

According to PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study, the Trump administration’s passed tax reform may boost AI in the country due to the lower corporate tax rate, provisions for repatriating cash from overseas, and permission to expense 100 percent of capital investments. This helps to put America at the forefront of the global tech race. However, the Trump administration’s immigration policy may impede the American efforts of being a world leader in AI in the opinion of American news and information website AXIOS. The majority of the top researchers in AI in the US today are from other countries, and a stricter immigrant policy may have a negative effect on the nation’s development of AI as it restricts the country’s ability to tap into the global AI talent pool, according to AXIOS.

Even though the focus of the Trump administration is on American leadership in AI, the White House is also looking to engage and collaborate with foreign partners and allies to assist in the stewardship of AI, said Assistant Director for AI in the Office of Science and Technology Policy Lynne Parker at the National Academy of Public Administration’s Forum on Artificial Intelligence on April 18. This is an opportunity for Sweden, as the Swedish Government is also looking to developing cross-country partnerships regarding the use of AI applications, and there are several synergies between the Swedish and the American innovation system and technological development. It is of great interest that both Sweden and the US are looking into how to further develop and adopt international standards and regulations that promote the use of AI, and how to prevent and manage risks associated with the technology. This creates opportunities for future collaboration in the area.

For further reading on the American AI Initiative, go to ai.gov. For more information about Sweden’s National Approach to Artificial Intelligence, click here.