President Trump’s recently announced artificial intelligence initiative does not include the word “China” but the latter’s progress in the race to machine-learning supremacy has prompted calls for the US to run faster. Though Trump’s plan is light on actual planning, the Pentagon released its own report recently that provides more detail.
Taken together, the documents are promising. Trump’s order directs agencies to assess their spending, re-prioritize existing funds toward AI and consider that priority in their upcoming budget proposals. It also opens government data to researchers and the private sector.
And it kick-starts a process for departments to consider how they might regulate machine-learning applications in their purview.
Exactly how these things happen is up to agencies, but at least the president is asking them to start thinking, which so far few seem to have done.
The exact amount China will spend on AI in the coming years has not been made public, but estimates run in the tens of billions of dollars. Individual cities are committing US$ 15bn or more on their own. Challenging China will certainly require more money than the meager US$ 1.1bn the US commits yearly in unclassified spending on machine learning.