White House plans spring release of AI research strategy

The strategy will be an updated version of a plan first released under the Obama administration.

AI government

The Trump administration plans to update an artificial intelligence research and development strategy first published under the Obama administration, according to Lynne Parker, the assistant director of artificial intelligence in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The 2016 National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan outlined funding priorities for federal research dollars. The new plan will include updates generated by a National Science Foundation request for comment in September this year, Parker said at a Dec. 4 event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

"Hopefully in early spring you will be seeing an updated version of that plan -- the R&D strategic plan -- as well as the process that we will be using at the federal level for tracking our progress in these investments," she said. "It's one thing to say this is our plan, it's another to show that you're actually making progress on that plan," Parker said.

Parker served as co-chair on the original NSF report, which focused on areas including scalable AI, methods for human-AI collaboration, legal and ethical concerns and safety.

Parker was speaking at an event to mark the release of a new report from the Center for Data Innovation titled "Why the United States Needs a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy and What It Should Look Like." The report, by Joshua New, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation, argues that government needs to be doing more to ensure that America retains its competitive edge when it comes to AI technology.

New recommends that the White House work through the CIO council to establish a greater focus on AI. Lessons learned at the federal level should then be shared to state governments, the report suggests, saying the General Services Administration can provide best practices to state-level CIOs.

Bringing AI into the public sector is a priority for the Trump administration, but implementing AI technology within government can be a struggle due to the legacy infrastructure governments tend to be operating on. This can require an entire reconstruction of a business process, Parker said.

"The way AI works it might change a process in some way -- but not the entire process, but a piece of the process -- so if you're able to address a piece of the process that means the rest of your business work model or business flow has to be changed but it might not align as well with your current structure or your current personnel," she said.

The Center for Data Innovation says the Department of Defense would benefit from AI for aiding in national security applications. But the DOD needs to work across agencies, incentivize private-sector participation in defense work, and organize agency-wide procurement of AI technologies.

Other countries, most notably China, have developed national AI strategies. China's plan outlines its goal as wanting to be the world leader in AI technology by 2030 and the country plans to invest more than $147 billion to make it happen. Canada, France, India, Japan and Taiwan also have formal national strategies, while countries like South Korea and the United Kingdom have begun to make investment in the technology and workforce, according to the report.