On Monday, February 11, President Trump signed an important Executive Order on Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence. This policy will benefit nearly every business and have a positive effect on the United States’ overall competitiveness during the next few decades by emphasizing five key areas of AI:
- Investing in AI Research and Development (R&D)
- Unleashing AI Resources
- Setting AI Governance Standards
- Building the AI Workforce
- International Engagement and Protecting our AI Advantage
AI is a general-purpose technology that will impact virtually every company and product in the next few years. While AI is powered by a rapidly evolving set of technologies and techniques, it is the application of AI that is important to the competitive ability of businesses and the country overall.
A major issue facing organizations and countries is growth. While AI may eliminate certain jobs, it also has the potential to expand the economy and make many industries far more efficient and productive. By shifting the burden of repetitive work to AI, companies can reduce their costs, increase quality, and most importantly, free their human resources to do what machines can’t – make judgments, use experience, and synthesize knowledge from different domains.
Evolve or Risk Falling Behind
The reality is that companies that fail to incorporate AI into their business strategies will not only fail to leap forward in their markets, but will not be able to decrease their costs, causing them ultimately to lose business and profit margins. As a nation, nearly all of us must move forward in this strategic area to remain the world leader.
The US initiative follows on the heels of at least 18 other countries that have announced national AI strategies. During the past few years, the central governments of many nations, including China, South Korea, France, and Canada have established aggressive policies and investments to lead the world in artificial intelligence. It’s clear that our global competitors and allies believe that this is a powerful new edge to be mastered. Many governments are also incorporating ethical standards into the policies with the goal of gaining the advantages without creating a Skynet moment.
What the Executive Order IS and IS NOT
The new Executive Order is light on specific goals and does not allocate a war chest to the initiative, but it does mobilize the entirety of the US Government to embrace AI across the board and redirect funding into AI priorities across agencies.
Action starts this year. This act will cause a trickle-down effect of money, technology and skill into the private sector. Additionally, the Order calls for the US Government to work to open up data and computer models to American AI researchers. This aspect is crucial. Creating AI requires a lot of data. Companies like Google and Apple have lots of proprietary data to do wonderful things with, but they don’t share. With this Order, the US Government will share its treasure trove of data and American businesses will benefit. Imagine the insights and innovations possible from the massive data held in government agencies like the VA, CDC, Dept. of Transportation and many others. Of course, it must be done with care and protection; both aspects of the Order.
Some will say it’s not enough and it’s not specific, but those opinions aren’t particularly surprising. President Trump is not one to create controls, but rather be an enabler for innovative businesses across the US.
There are several near-term milestones in the order. During the next 120 days, the Order asks agencies to respond and prioritize. Stay tuned to see how the trickle-down plays out.
Click to read the Executive Order.