President Donald Trump signed an executive order Monday designed to beef up how the U.S. approaches artificial intelligence. The effort comes as China continues making inroads in AI development.
The so-called American AI Initiative does not directly target the communist country, but some experts believe approach leaves no doubt about the administration’s designs. The move is light on details but comes as China’s telecommunications industry comes under withering criticism.
“Continued American leadership in Artificial Intelligence is of paramount importance to maintaining the economic and national security of the United States,” Trump noted in a press statement attached to the order.
Trump’s EO focuses on maintaining the country’s research and development on cutting edge technology to benefit Americans. It also directs agencies to make data more available to developers, set standards for how technology is developed, and calls for a plan to “preserve America’s advantage in collaboration” with allies.
“It is encouraging to see the White House take action on AI at a time when competition in these strategic technologies is clearly intensifying,” Elsa Kania, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, told reporters before Trump officially signed the memo.
She added: “China’s ambitions to lead the world in AI present a direct and credible challenge to American leadership in innovation.” Other analysts are taking a different tact, noting that the initial plan does not appear to have much girth.
“If there’s no implementation plan behind the EO — with details, deadlines, and funding — then it may be worse than no EO at all,” Wendy Anderson, general manager for defense and national security at SparkCognition, told reporters. She was the chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Ash Carter.
Trump’s EO comes more than a year after China announced plans to spend billions of dollars on a new artificial intelligence research and development base in Beijing. The $2 billion artificial intelligence technology research and development park will reportedly draw in over 400 businesses and generate an annual output value of at least $7 billion.
China’s leap to the top of the AI pack has not come without headaches. The country has wrestled with reports that Volkswagen, GM, Ford and other automakers are among 200 companies transmitting position information and other data to government-backed monitoring centers.
There are also concerns that China is using artificial intelligence to censor and monitor individuals beyond Beijing’s borders.
Data are stored at China’s Shanghai Electric Vehicle Public Data Collecting, Monitoring and Research Center, which sits in a large tower in the Jiading district. The center contains a room with an enormous wall with green dots flashing, each representing a single vehicle traveling through China’s streets on a map that some believe could reveal where people work and live.
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