Opinion: The U.S. Needs to do More to Innovate Artificial Intelligence

One of the most difficult obstacles the United States faces with Artificial Intelligence policy is the tradeoff between innovation and regulation. Many policy makers in the United States point to the European Union’s AI regulatory framework (which is expected to pass through the European Commission in 2022); however, I believe the EU’s AI policy is detrimental to AI innovation in Europe and is not effective. China will quickly surpass the United States in terms of AI capabilities if the U.S. adopts Europe’s AI regulatory framework.

With the fast pace of AI development and innovation, it is hard to outline a concrete regulatory plan. The AI environment is much different in 2022 than it was five years ago in 2017. For example, transformer models like GPT-3 and BERT were just beginning to enter the picture in 2017, and now they are significantly changing the AI landscape. Additionally, the capabilities of deep learning have quickly evolved over the past few years. How can the EU expect their regulatory framework to be accurate with the fast pace of AI innovation? Even in the writing of my thesis over the past six months, I have had to add and revise to my work because of the fast pace in AI innovation.

The EU is employing significant AI Regulations

With the constant changes in the AI landscape, significant regulatory legislation will be ineffective and outdated by the time it is employed in society. The United States should not adopt the EU’s AI regulatory framework; however, we still see some federal officials calling for greater AI regulatory measures.

The U.S. already has a Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence that regulates and promotes the fair use of AI deployment in a voluntary manner. The U.S. needs to continue to promote ethical AI with non-binding consequences and should not employ a non-voluntary binding strategy. The issue with the U.S. AI policy is not the regulatory framework, rather the innovation strategy.

Although the United States currently has the most AI capabilities in the world, China is quickly catching the United States. President Xi has stated that China, “Must ensure that our country marches in the front ranks when it comes to theoretical research and this important area of AI and occupies the high ground in critical and core AI technologies.”

I believe that China is pooling their resources better than the United States. China is using both the public and private sector to innovate their AI. For the most part, the United States is trying to innovate AI in the private and public sector separately. We do not see the United States government working with our top AI private sector companies.

Secretary of Defense, Dr. Mark T. Esper records statement at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Public Conference. (DoD photo by Marvin Lynchard)

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper in 2019 stated at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence Public Conference address, “When America unleashes its collective genius of industry and government and academia, there is no one that can compete with us”.

Former U.S. Defense Secretaries from both sides of the aisle are preaching the same message: The United States need to do a better job of pooling U.S. public and private sector resources to innovate for AI.

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta briefing about cyber attacks abroad (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

Former U.S. Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta under President Obama stated, “We must develop a partnership between the government and the private sector in order to make sure that we are working together to try to increase our technological capability… The federal government needs to partner with private sector businesses to foster our advances”.

I couldn’t agree more with former U.S. Defense Secretaries Leon Panetta and Mark Esper.

Defense organizations such as the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence (NCARAI), the Army Artificial Intelligence Integration Center (AI2C) at the Army Futures Command, and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory should partner with private sector companies to innovate AI. The federal government would not inhibit the innovation in the private sector, rather the combination of the private and public sector together would benefit everyone in the United States and our allied countries.

The Most Innovative Square Mile in the World 2018 – MIT Kendal Square

Additionally, academic institutions with cutting edge research in the field of AI, such as MIT, Stanford, Harvard, California Berkley, and Carnegie Mellon should be more involved in U.S. AI development. I think that if the United States can unite the private sector, public sector, and academia into developing AI, the United States would significantly increase the gap between China in AI innovation.

The pending USICA Act would authorize $110 billion for advanced AI technology development and research over the next five years. This proposed bill from the U.S. Senate would invest in areas such as advanced research, commercialization, education and training programs in AI, semiconductors, quantum computing, advanced communications, biotechnology, and advanced energy

Additionally, the House of Representatives have recently passed the COMPETES act, which will authorize billions of dollars to AI development as well. Now, Congress needs to reconcile the Senate’s USICA Act, and the House’s COMPTES act in a conference committee to enact the contents in this legislation. If Congress can reconcile these two bills into one bill for the President to approve, the United States could emerge as the clear leader in AI capabilities. The USICA Act and COMPETES Act are a step in the right direction.

Overall, the European Union is taking steps backwards in AI innovation, China is significantly advancing their AI capabilities, and the United States is not making enough progress.

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