Artificial Intelligence

Senators Propose $2.2B AI Investment

Two senators have proposed new legislation that would allocate $2.2 billion toward federal research and development (R&D), and create a national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy.

The Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The funding would be spread out over the next five years to federal agencies, including the Department of Energy, Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and others.

In addition, a National AI Coordination Office would be created to lead federal AI efforts, as well as require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the effects of AI on society and education, and dole out $40 million a year to NIST to develop AI evaluation standards. The legislation would also provide $20 million a year from 2020 to 2024 to invest in the creation of five multidisciplinary AI research centers.

While President Trump signed an executive order earlier this year to support a federal AI strategy, Heinrich said that isn’t enough.

“I give the administration credit for putting some real thought into AI. However, their efforts have not been as coordinated across government agencies as we’d like, and so we set up a structure to make sure that that’s occurring,” he said, according to Venture Beat.

He added that the U.S. currently can’t compete with investment sizes by countries like China, which has revealed plans to become the worldwide AI leader by 2030.

“I think it is probably not reasonable to think that we’re going to match them on a dollar-for-dollar basis. Where we can exceed the Chinese is in innovation, and having the sort of environment that facilitates both innovation and respect for ethical conduct,” said Heinrich. “If we can nurture that environment, we’ll be able to out-compete the Chinese over the long run, because the best and brightest will want to do this sort of work here as opposed to the pretty toxic environment that exists in China right now.”

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