The White House has announced a new initiative to work with companies on artificial intelligence, rather than imposing restrictive regulations.
The new Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was announced on Thursday by the US government's deputy CTO and de facto head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP, Michael Kratsios.
In prepared remarks, he said, "We didn't cut the lines before Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call; we didn't regulate flight before the Wright Brothers took off at Kitty Hawk."
The announcement came as a surprise, given that the Trump White House has until this point been close-mouthed on the topic.
In fact, Kratsios gave his speech on the same day that The Week published an article titled ‘Trump is MIA on AI'.
However, the Select Committee's formation, and the fact that it was announced at a meeting of representatives from companies including Google, Facebook and Boeing - plus government figures and AI experts - signal that the White House might be ready to take the issue seriously.
The USA won't be saluting its new robot overlords just yet, though. Trump has been famously bullish (some might say ignorant) on the AI topic. Only two years ago, he suggested new investment in industries that have been transformed by automation in his campaign speeches; and more recently new, tougher immigration rules have made it more difficult for international figures in the area of AI to work in the country.
Kratsios acknowledged the issue of job losses, saying, "To a certain degree job displacement is inevitable, but we can't sit idle, hoping eventually the market will sort it out. We must do what Americans have always done: adapt."
The technology industry has welcomed the news. Dean Garfield, president of the Information Technology Industry Council (a lobbying group for major tech firms) said that the move would be "broadly beneficial" to Americans, adding that the committee is "a great first step to forge better collaboration between industry, government, and academia."
You have to admire Silicon Valley's absolute shamelessness: throwing off any hint at regulation with one hand, while welcoming government investment with the other.
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