Artificial intelligence may have been invented in the United States, but other nations, including China, Canada, and France, have made bigger moves to back and benefit from the technology in recent years.

President Donald Trump will seek to change that today by signing executive order that launches the US government’s own AI play.

The key focuses of the “American Artificial Intelligence Initiative” have been released ahead of time by the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The initiative is designed to boost the US AI industry by reallocating funding, creating new resources, and devising ways for the US the shape the technology even as it becomes increasingly global.

However, while the goals are lofty, the details are vague. And it will not include a big lump sum of funding for AI research. 

The initiative will seek to achieve five key things:

Redirect funding: The order will direct federal funding agencies to prioritize investments artificial intelligence. 

Release resources: It will seek to make federal data, computer models, and computing resources available to AI researchers.

Create standards: It will direct the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create standards that foster the development of “reliable, robust, trustworthy, secure, portable, and interoperable AI systems.”

Retrain workers: It will ask agencies to prioritize preparing workers for the changes brought about by AI through apprenticeships, skills programs, and fellowships.

Engage internationally: It will call for a strategy for collaborating internationally while ensuring AI is developed in a way that is consistent with American “values and interests.”

Each of these steps could perhaps help boost US AI research and make America more competitive—depending on how they are executed.

It is certainly vital for the White House to have a coherent policy on artificial intelligence if it wants to maintain American military power, economic strength, and influence abroad. And until now, the Trump administration has come under criticism for taking a hands-off approach to AI in contrast to other governments. America’s main economic rival, China, announced a sweep plan for funding and developing AI in 2017.

Further details may soon be forthcoming. While Trump made a brief reference to “Industries of the Future” in last week’s State of the Union address, administration officials have indicated that the president is preparing a series of executive orders designed to boost US competitiveness in key technology areas including AI, 5G, and quantum computing.

Jason Furman, a professor at Harvard who was Chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers and helped craft administrations influential 2016 report on artificial intelligence, says the AI plan is encouraging but only the first step.

“The Administration’s American AI Initiative includes all of the right elements, the critical test will be to see if they follow through in a vigorous manner,” Furman says. “The plan is aspirational with no details and is not self-executing.”



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