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EST. 1915

China Moves Ahead in AI

Mary Rommer


On Monday February 11, 2019, President Donald Trump issued a new executive order titled “Maintaining American Leadership in Artificial Intelligence”. Known also as the “American AI Initiative”, the executive order made clear that the United States is focused on maintaining its lead in artificial intelligence development through continued research and advanced deployment of artificial intelligence. The executive order also stated that American superiority in Artificial Intelligence is of utmost vitality for the economy, the military, and overall national security. Soon after the executive order was signed, the Pentagon issued their own statement titled “Harnessing AI to Advance Our Security and Prosperity” which outlines the importance of putting artificial intelligence to the forefront as other countries, namely China and Russia, continue to do the same thereby threatening the advantages the United States currently possess in battlefield technology, security intelligence, and war pace.


Neither President Trump nor the Pentagon mentioned where the funding to support this increase in AI advancement will come from, but it is expected to be seen in the 2020 fiscal year defense budget request. New funding will have to be passed by Congress. Without budget approval and a precise AI implementation plan it is uncertain how much longer the U.S. will be able to keep ahead of the rate at which the Chinese military is building power. According to experts, China is already beginning to take steps ahead of the United States in AI. China has put forth $150 billion towards AI for the next ten years whereas the United States has failed to, as of yet, provide a budget plan for the new “American AI Initiative”. Recognizing that China has been investing massive amounts of capital into modernization of its military force, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s threats to overcome American technological advancements by the year 2030 are clearly not empty threats and America’s national security cannot afford to take them lightly. Especially considering China has already taken the lead in research, papers, and paper citations in AI. China has also seen huge progress in high speed communication through 5G networks-another crucial area of development which would aid AI efficiency- already having put in billions of dollars towards research.


Even without funding, President Trump’s executive order will still allow AI progress as federal agencies can begin sharing information involving datasets useful to AI research. The United States Department of Defense has already publicized in their press release the creation of a new AI Center, hiring of new AI employees in an increased AI workforce, increases in AI resources and databases, intent for more training and recruitment, plans to increase the rapidity with which military is receiving AI, and even more projects included in “The American AI Initiative” such as use of autonomous weapons and drone usage for remote data gathering and analysis.

While advanced AI cannot be neglected if America wishes to maintain national security, some imagine this new AI race as another arms race and the beginning of another world war. Others deem increased use of AI as an unavoidable consequence of technological advancement. Either way the fact is that America is falling behind.

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