U.S. urged to invest more in AI as China gains ground: report


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. government funding in artificial intelligence has fallen short and the country needs to invest in research, train an AI-ready workforce and apply the technology to national security missions, an independent government-commissioned panel said in an interim report on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A security officer keeps watch in front of an AI (Artificial Intelligence) sign at the annual Huawei Connect event in Shanghai, China September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) raised concerns about the progress China has made in this area. It also said the U.S. government still faces enormous work before it can transition AI from “a promising technological novelty into a mature technology integrated into core national security missions.”

The commission thinks an allied effort on AI in the realm of national security is important, Robert Work, vice chairman of the NSCAI and a former deputy secretary of defense, told reporters. The NSCAI has spoken with Japan, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and the European Union, Work said.

China is investing more than the United States in AI, said the report, which referred to the Asian nation more than 50 times.

“China takes advantage of the openness of U.S. society in numerous ways – some legal, some not – to transfer AI know-how,” the report said, at a time of heightened tensions between the countries.

A spokeswoman for China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately return a request for comment.

“China is ahead in two areas. One is in the face recognition surveillance area. And another one is in financial technology. This does not mean that they’re ahead (in) AI overall,” Eric Schmidt, the panel’s chairman and one of several U.S. tech industry executives on the commission, told reporters.

A poll the commission conducted of researchers found that China is a “fast follower” but that “the best and the most original papers are still occurring in the West,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt is a technical advisor to Google’s parent Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) and the company’s former executive chairman. Others on the commission include Andrew Jassy, chief executive officer of Amazon Web Services (AMZN.O), and Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle Corp (ORCL.N).

The report also highlighted under-investment in the Department of Defense’s technology infrastructure, but commissioners said they still see a way forward for the United States to win a technological race.

Last month, the Pentagon awarded a controversial contract to Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) to help give the military better access to data and cloud computing services from battlefields and other remote locations.

The final report from the commission will be ready in about a year, the commission said.

Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin and Nandita Bose; Additional reporting by Mike Stone; Editing by Paul Simao

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