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On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order laying out a national plan to boost the leadership in Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology by establishing American AI Initiative. According to most of the experts, this move seems to be aimed at China’s swift rise in AI.

Nearly two years ago, the Chinese government released its own sweeping AI plan and has committed tens of billions of dollars in spending toward developing it. But it seems Trump’s new order indicates the American response to China. The official announcement framed it as an effort to win an AI arms race. The announcement states, “Americans have profited tremendously from being the early developers and international leaders in AI. However, as the pace of AI innovation increases around the world, we cannot sit idly by and presume that our leadership is guaranteed.”

The announcement further mentioned five major areas of action:

  • Investing in AI Research and Development (R&D) by having federal agencies increase funding for AI R&D
  • Making federal data and computing power more available for AI purposes and further unleashing AI resources
  • Setting AI government standards for safe and trustworthy AI
  • Building and training an AI workforce
  • Engaging with international allies and also protecting the tech from foreign adversaries

Trump said in a statement, accompanying the order, “Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States.”

Trump’s executive order did not allocate any additional federal funding towards executing the AI vision. But the document, instead, calls on federal agencies to prioritize existing funds toward AI projects.

Response by the experts

In a response to IEEE Spectrum for the take on the announcement, most of the experts said that it might be a response to China’s AI policy, which calls for major investment to make China the world leader in AI by 2030. In an interview, the former head of Google China recently even explained to IEEE Spectrum why China has the edge in AI.

According to Darrell West, director of the Brookings Institution’s center for technological innovation and author of the recent book, The Future of Work: Robots, AI, and Automation, Trump is trying to set the American AI Initiative at the top and compete well in the race of AI. Also, according to him, the idea seems unclear with respect to implementation.

He said, “Trump is signing an executive order on AI because it is the transformative technology of our time and he needs a national strategy on how to retain U.S. preeminence in this area. Critics complain there is no national strategy, so he is using the executive order to explain how the government can help through R&D support, workforce development, and infrastructure enhancement. The order is a step in the right direction, but it is not clear whether there is new funding to support the initiative or how it will be implemented.”

Daniel Castro, director of the Center for Data Innovation was a bit positive on this go and said, “Ensuring American leadership in artificial intelligence is critical for U.S. competitiveness. Accelerating the development and adoption of AI holds the potential to increase productivity, grow the economy, and harness the many societal benefits the technology can bring. The administration’s initiative will prioritize AI research and training programs and boost auxiliary infrastructure such as data and other inputs.”

Amy Webb, a “quantitative futurist” and author of a forthcoming book about AI called The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans & Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, doesn’t envy the legislators. According to him the American AI Initiative is vague and lacks details. In a statement, he said, “The American AI Initiative at the moment is a collection of bullet points. It is vague at best and makes zero mention of detailed policy, a concrete funding plan, or a longer-term vision for America’s future.”

Lawmakers and major tech companies are happy because of this move. Most of the tech companies now see this as an opportunity to cash in on AI. Intel said in a statement that, “It makes “perfect sense” for federal agencies to play a “key role in AI implementation.”

To know more about this news, check out the official announcement.

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