There is no question the United States is on a mission to preserve its role as a global leader in AI (artificial intelligence) adoption and innovation. Perhaps even more noteworthy is what this latest initiative has in common with past data-related initiatives? If you watched the 2019 State of the Union address a couple of weeks ago, you heard President Trump say he’s eager to work with Congress to invest in “cutting edge industries of the future.”
He referred to this investment in cutting-edge industries as a necessity, not an option. Candidly, I was eagerly awaiting more commentary and was hoping he would elaborate. The cutting-edge industries of the future are all we write about here at Connected World, and we’ve seen how government involvement can really support or stifle IoT (Internet of Things) industry growth.
The really exciting news is that we didn’t have to wait to understand what President Trump had on his mind when he talked about investing in cutting-edge industries. Last week, Trump signed an executive order that launched what the Administration is calling “The American AI Initiative.”
The initiative takes a multipronged approach to maintaining and accelerating America’s leadership in AI.
Here are a few specifics.
The initiative will invest in AI research and development across industry, academia, and government.
It’s supposed to funnel federal spending toward AI ideas that can “directly benefit the American people.” The initiative is also going to be directing agencies to make federal data, models, and computing resources more available to America’s AI R&D (research and development) experts.
Opening up data sets can be a controversial topic. Many privacy-minded folks recoil a little bit when you read or hear words like this. At this point, we don’t have too much more information, but let’s choose to look at the pros instead of the cons right now.
All of us in the IoT know how beneficial data can be. Anytime we are making federal data and resources available to the R&D ecosystem, it will help us push the boundaries of innovation in artificial intelligence.
The American AI Initiative is also concerned with the ethics of AI. For instance, it’s focusing on setting AI governance standards. It specifically calls on the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) to lead the development of technical standards for reliable, trustworthy, secure, and interoperable AI systems. Look next month at the feature article where we will go into greater detail about AI ethics.
The initiative also makes a point of saying it intends to prepare the U.S. workforce to adapt and thrive in this new age of AI. Ok, read between the lines with me here. People are freaked out about AI replacing human workers. That’s just how it is.
Some people really do have cause for concern. People who have jobs that can be easily automated probably will be replaced by robots in the next few decades. To be honest this is bound to happen. Emerging AI automated solutions will eliminate the jobs that are very task oriented. But keep in mind, with all the jobs being eliminated, we can’t properly predict just how many types of new jobs AI and automation will create.
So now we’ve come to the real heart of the matter. This whole section in the initiative is meant to pacify people who would otherwise baulk at the government’s desire to invest in more AI.
What the initiative actually states is that it “calls for agencies to prioritize fellowship and training programs to help American workers gain AI-relevant skills through apprenticeships, skills programs, fellowships, and education in computer science and other growing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields.”
That sounds pretty mild, but now most people know what is really happening here. And that’s most of the bullet points in the new AI initiative.
The most interesting is the opening up of federal data, models, and computing resources to researchers and developers working in AI.
This isn’t the first initiative—nor the first president—to want to open up data to try to prod innovation in the tech realm.
Former President Obama was called the “big data” president in part because his administration launched the big-data research and development initiative in 2012.
That initiative was created to develop big data technologies, demonstrate applications of big data, and train the next generation of data scientists. You’ll remember that Obama also brought on a chief data scientist at the White House, and he made an effort to make open data the new status quo for federal agencies.
The biggest parallel that can be drawn between Trump’s and Obama’s initiatives that needs to be mentioned is that they both aim to support R&D for the benefit of our nation and to support our key values.
AI is transformational. It’s affecting nearly every aspect of our lives and businesses, and we as a nation need to invest in it. One undercurrent to President Trump’s initiative is that the U.S. needs to invest in order to keep up with international competition, and that statement couldn’t be any truer or more accurate.
Republican, Democrat—no matter which party has a president in the White House—as an industry, we need to try to see past the politics and advocate for what we know needs to happen in our space—and that’s technological advancement and that means creating positive disruption.
We must come together on important issues like security and privacy, standards creation, cyber-infrastructure, data sharing workforce and skills development and education, or whatever it takes to continue to keep innovation moving forward.
We can’t do that if people don’t allow these AI data sets to be freed up for creative minds to explore and to innovate. Perhaps we should spend less time criticizing and spend more time innovating with all of this amazing treasure trove of government data.
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