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On Monday, the US president signed an executive order that introduces a program named “American AI Initiative”. With this initiative, the US government joins the list of governments that have issued a broad AI strategy including China, France, Canada, and South Korea.

What is the aim of this American AI Initiative?

Though no specific details have been revealed, officials said a more detailed plan will be shared over the next six months. A fact sheet issued by the White House listed the following key aspects the federal agencies will be responsible for to boost the position of US in the AI industry:

  • Providing funds, programs, and data to support AI research and commercialization. Agencies in areas such as health and transportation will be urged to share data while maintaining privacy, that could be used in AI research.
  • Taking steps towards preparing US workers to adjust to jobs that have been automated by AI or will be automated in the future.
  • Under this initiative, the federal agencies will need to prioritize AI when allocating their R&D projects.
  • Federal agencies will also require to develop a set of national regulatory standards for AI, which will address the various ethical issues caused by AI.

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

Many speculate that this national AI strategy is the result of the bitter trade war between the US and China and also due to the concerns around people losing their jobs because of the advancements in AI. Lynne Parker, the Assistant Director of AI at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, stated, “AI has really become a transformative technology that’s changing industries, markets, and society. There are a number of actions that are needed to help us harness AI for the good of the American people.”

How AI experts, tech companies, and others are reacting to this initiative?

This initiative saw mixed reactions from the public, industry leaders, AI experts, and policymakers. Roger Wicker, the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, stated, “Artificial Intelligence has great potential to benefit the American people while enhancing our nation’s security and growing our economy. Today’s executive order will ensure that the United States remains a leader in emerging technologies and scientific development.”

Tech companies think that this is definitely a step forward to a comprehensive national strategy on AI. In a statement to The Hill, IBM said, “Today’s order is a critical step in the launch of America’s national AI strategy. We commend and welcome the order’s emphasis on specific priorities that IBM had recommended, such as the ethical advancement of AI, expanding 21st-century apprenticeship opportunities to build an AI-ready workforce, leveraging government data to accelerate AI development that can deliver shared prosperity, and prioritizing AI in federal research and development.”

One of the Hacker News users said, “I hope it’s an incredibly significant amount of money considering how important of an issue this is. Out of everything else that’s going on, AI will have the greatest impact on the future.” While others think that this is just a PR by the Trump administration, “It won’t mean anything unless it is backed by piles and piles money for research funds, which I highly doubt. I think this is more a PR show by trump to make it appear as if the US is countering China.”

Kate Crawford, co-director of AI Now research institute, told the Science, “The White House’s latest executive order correctly highlights AI as a major priority for U.S. policymaking.” But she is concerned about the fact that the executive order is mainly focused on industry and lacks input from academia and civic leaders.

Erik Brynjolfsson, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, said along with driving AI research and development, US policymakers must also take into account the values and how the technology is implemented. He said, “If we want Western values to thrive, we need to play a role in maintaining and even extending the technological strength we’ve long had.”

Read more in detail about the American AI Initiative in the fact sheet shared by the White House.

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