White House Summit Focuses on Artificial Intelligence

White House Summit Focuses on Artificial Intelligence

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On 10 May 2018, the White House hosted a summit on Artificial Intelligence for American Industry, which brought together a hand-picked group of 100 participants, including senior government officials, corporate CEOs, heads of industrial research labs, and selected academic experts.  The purpose of the summit was to discuss the promise of AI and the policies needed to ensure U.S. leadership in AI technologies.

In addition to senior staff from the White House, federal participants included senior officials from the National Science Foundation, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health & Human Services, Labor, Transportation, and Treasury.

Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President for Technology Policy, gave a framing talk, noting that “Artificial intelligence holds tremendous potential as a tool to empower the American worker, drive growth in American industry, and improve the lives of the American people.  Our free market approach to scientific discovery harnesses the combined strengths of government, industry, and academia, and uniquely positions us to leverage this technology for the betterment of our great nation.”

Summit attendees participated in two breakout sessions, choosing from several options organized around issues such as AI R&D, AI workforce development, regulatory barriers to AI, and sector-specific AI applications.  Industry sectors represented at the summit included food and agriculture, energy and manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and transportation and logistics.

Participants were left with four take-away themes that will guide federal policy:

  • America is blessed with a unique R&D ecosystem based on a free market approach to scientific discovery that is based on collaboration between industry, government and academia. As a result, an important priority is finding new ways to form and strengthen public-private partnerships in order to accelerate AI R&D.
  • AI is creating new types of jobs and demand for new technical skills across all industry sectors. At the same time, many existing occupations will change significantly or become obsolete as a result of AI advances.  The national priority is to better prepare America for the jobs of the future, with a renewed focus on K-12 STEM education, technical apprenticeships, re-skilling and lifelong learning designed to match skills with changing industry needs.
  • Overly burdensome government regulations serve only to drive innovation overseas, and should be removed in order to maintain American leadership in AI and emerging technologies. At the same time, an important priority is promoting AI R&D collaboration with America’s allies and raising public awareness of AI and how it can benefit their daily lives.
  • AI will enable novel, high-impact applications that are industry-specific, which will help those industries empower the American workforce, grow their business and better serve their customers.

The overall White House message to industry participants: do not expect the federal government to extend a heavy regulatory hand, especially with respect to the roll out of AI-dependent autonomous vehicles and drones in the transportation sector and other applications.

As a follow-up to the AI summit, the White House released a summary of actions taken by the Trump Administration in support of AI and announced the creation of a Select Committee on AI comprised of the most senior R&D officials in the Federal Government.

The Select Committee, which is similar in conception to the revitalized National Space Council, will operate at an executive level to advise the President on national AI R&D priorities, propose federal partnerships with industry and academia, and outline structures within the federal government to improve planning and coordination of AI R&D.

The Select Committee will operate within the National Science and Technology Council, a cabinet-level council established in 1993 to help the Executive Branch coordinate science and technology policy across the diverse entities that make up the Federal research and development enterprise.


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