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The Global State of Artificial Intelligence

· May 9, 2018

Tomorrow the White House will bring together executives from over 30 tech companies, along with leading academics, government officials, and developers for a summit on artificial intelligence (AI).

The Administration is expected to ask these attendees how to improve the field of AI in the United States and, more specifically, about “ways to adapt regulations to advance AI in such fields as agriculture, health care and transportation.” The U.S. government’s ability to fund research into AI-related technologies, such as machine learning, is also said to be on the agenda.

The present imbalance between the potential economic gains from AI and policy initiatives to foster it is likely one motivation for the summit. That is, while U.S. technology companies are increasingly competitive players in the artificial intelligence space, at this time the U.S. has no comparable federal policies or national strategic initiatives to support this technology.

However, in recent years lawmakers have made a concerted effort to catch up by forging partnerships with AI industry leaders, and by creating initiatives and policies that encourage and invest in AI research.

For instance, last year a bipartisan group of lawmakers established the Artificial Intelligence Caucus and legislation, such as the Future of Artificial Intelligence Act (known simply as the FUTURE Act), has been introduced. If passed, the FUTURE Act would mandate that the Secretary of Commerce create a Federal Advisory Committee on the Development and Implementation of Artificial Intelligence.

This advisory committee would “consider a host of market-related issues, including: the ethics of using AI, re-training the U.S. workforce to account for shifts in the labor market, and how the federal government can encourage AI investment.”

What’s more, in March Representative Stefanik introduced the National Security Commission on AI Act, pieces of which are incorporated in the House Armed Services Committee markup of the FY 2019 NDAA. Another bill of note is the AI JOBS Act, which would require reporting on possible workforce impacts.

As the White House takes steps to formulate their own strategy to support AI, and complement this legislation, it is worthwhile to look at other countries’ AI initiatives and the progress they have (or have not) made in advancing them.

European Union
On April 25 the European Commission published a Communication on Artificial Intelligence for Europe in which they laid out a “European approach” to best take advantage of the opportunities AI affords, “while addressing the new challenges AI brings.”

This European Initiative on AI is three-pronged: bolster the EU’s usage of AI throughout the economy by investing in research and innovation and providing better access to data; prepare for the socio-economic changes AI will spark by modernizing education and training systems; and establish an ethical and legal framework.

Specifically, the Commission is increasing investments in AI to EUR 1.5 billion by the end of 2020. At the same time, the Commission, in partnership with the European Investment Group, “aims to mobilise more than €500 million in total investments in the period 2018-2020 across a range of key sectors.”

To prepare for the socio-economic changes brought about by AI, the Commission will: create training programs; gather data to try and anticipate and prepare for changes in the labor market and the skills necessary to enter/remain in the labor market; encourage business-education partnerships; and provide students and graduates with “advanced digital skills.”

The ethical and legal framework on AI, which is due by the end of 2018, will reportedly take into consideration principles on data protection and transparency, will use the work of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies as a foundation. It will also be based on the EU’s values and will align with reflect the principles put forward in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.

To successfully execute these initiatives, as the Communication states, “requires joining forces.”

Which is why, on April 10, 2018, 25 European countries signed the European Commission’s “declaration of cooperation,” pledging to “work together on the opportunities and challenges brought by AI.”

United Kingdom
Last year the UK parliament launched a series of inquiries, as well as independent industry reviews commissioned by the government, on artificial intelligence. These examinations concluded that while the UK is “well-placed to harness the power of AI… it is too soon to regulate.”

The UK government is instead focusing on “preparing the economy and the workforce for change by investing in R&D and encouraging industry collaboration with universities.”

AI is also heavily featured in the government’s new Industrial Strategy, that recommends, among other things: establishing an industry AI Council that intends to encourage more active participation in future AI policy decision making; creating a Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation and a government AI Policy Unit; and appointing a Minister for AI to sit within the Cabinet.

Although no specific policy has been proposed, the government is allocating funds to regulators to test how to regulate emerging technologies, such as AI.

While there’s little indication of what, exactly, these regulations will look like at this time, Prime Minister Theresa May states that they will be “innovation friendly,” and create an attractive market for startups to invest in.

In the same breath, however, May underscored that safety and ethics concerns will be a driving force behind the government’s technology policy agenda, and asserted that “the market should not be left to regulate itself.”

China
As DisCo previously reported, last year the Chinese government “announced a set of initiatives to make China a leading innovator by 2030 and a world-leading science and technology power by 2049.” Making China a global leader in artificial intelligence is regarded as key to accomplishing this.

To help advance China’s position in AI, the Chinese government has enlisted Baidu and other top tech companies to support the development of AI in the country, particularly as it pertains to autonomous vehicles, intelligent voice interactive systems, and smart home products, among others.

These companies’ investment in AI R&D is already apparent; to date Baidu has invested 15% of its revenue — approximately US$1.5 billion — in AI-related R&D, and other major tech players like Alibaba and Tencent have created AI-dedicated labs.

To promote AI, the Chinese government is also: allocating greater funds to research and development projects across a variety of sectors; investing in startups, and particularly AI-focused ventures; and developing and implementing innovation-friendly policies.

Hong Kong
Although Hong Kong currently lags behind many of their Asian counterparts in AI, Hong Kong’s government recently issued a proposal intended to jumpstart their AI industry.

Their proposed solutions include “more corporate funding for internal initiatives and in conjunction with technology start-ups” and “partnerships with larger markets such as China [which] would increase opportunities for home-grown and overseas AI talent.”

Singapore
Although AI is already embedded in Singapore’s financial sector, it is largely absent in the country’s other sectors. Singapore’s new innovation initiatives are attempting to address this discrepancy.

For example, last year Singapore’s Committee of the Future Economy drafted seven “mutually-reinforcing strategies to grow its GDP by 2-3% on average,” and its “innovation strategy” referenced AI.

AI.SG, another government-lead AI initiative, was also established last year. This national initiative aims to “bring… together related agencies to develop deep AI capabilities” and invest up to S$150 million in AI over the next five years.

According to Singapore’s Government, AI.SG will identify “major challenges affecting society and industry,” “invest in readiness for the next wave of scientific innovation,” and “encourage more companies to use AI and machine learning in Singapore.”

The Professional Services Industry Transformation Map, launched this January, was similarly designed to drive innovation and address challenges resulting from technical advancement, particularly in the professional services industries. It aims to do this by “equipping the industry workforce with specialised skill sets in AI, data science and analytics.”

Australia
At this time Australia lacks a national initiative, strategy, and/or policy regarding the adoption and regulation of AI. However, over the past few years Australia’s businesses and workforce have been preparing for the effects of AI.

In 2015 the Committee for Economic Development of Australia reported that almost five million Australian jobs — approximately 40 percent of the workforce — have a high probability of being replaced by computers by 2030.

Three years later, in 2018, researchers concluded that Australian businesses are “actively embracing automation, with the most common uses being machine learning, automated reasoning, robotics, knowledge representation and natural language processing.”

It’s worth noting that the Australian government does have a broad national Innovation Strategy, which contains initiatives for smart cities and smart network programs — though support for artificial intelligence is not specifically mentioned in the agenda.

United Arab Emirates
In October 2017 the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, established the UAE Artificial Intelligence Strategy 2031. The initiative intends to embed AI into nine sectors of the UAE’s economy: transport, health, space, renewable energy, water, technology, education, environment, and traffic.

The appointment of the country’s first Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence — Omar bin Sultan Al Olama — shortly followed the launch of this Strategy. Al Olama, who has a mandate to “position the UAE as a major hub for the development of AI technologies,” stated that his team will concentrate on developing legislation around AI, training the UAE’s workforce, and attracting people with the right skills from abroad and within the country in order to apply AI throughout all sectors of the economy.

“We will add clear laws, framework and roadmap for implementing AI to serve humanity, not control humanity,” Al Olama announced.

Innovation

New technologies are constantly emerging that promise to change our lives for the better. These disruptive technologies give us an increase in choice, make technologies more accessible, make things more affordable, and give consumers a voice. And the pace of innovation has only quickened in recent years, as the Internet has enabled a wave of new, inter-connected devices that have benefited consumers around the world, seemingly in all aspects of their lives. Preserving an innovation-friendly market is, therefore, tantamount not only to businesses but society at large.