This is a guest article by Pace Hadder, a tech writer
The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) is forcing the world’s governments to try and keep up with the inherent changes. Apart from being the topic of countless science fiction novels, comic books, and movies, the many practical applications of AI include assisting accountants in menial data-crunching tasks, intelligent warehousing and factory automation, accurate financial analysis, predicting medical outcomes, and much more.
The FUTURE of AI in the US
Here in the US, these developments are what spurred the introduction of the Fundamentally Understanding the Usability and Realistic Evolution (FUTURE) of Artificial Intelligence Act of 2017. In a nutshell, the FUTURE of AI Act – if passed – would require the Department of Commerce to create and direct a federal advisory committee (FAC) focused on AI. This FAC would be responsible for advising the department secretary on any and all matters related to AI development. Its mandate would be studying the various aspects of AI. If it became law, the committee would have eighteen months to report administrative and legislative recommendations to the Secretary of the Department of Commerce.
These recommendations would have four main goals – promote American innovation and investment in AI to ensure competitiveness in the global market; address the needs of the American workforce in terms of adapting to AI developments; support the development of “unbiased AI”; and protect individual privacy rights. While the fairly comprehensive act has not yet become law, it’s a huge step towards the US being a primary player in global AI development. And it’s about time. AI is already being prominently used in eCommerce, insurance, travel, and many other areas, and it is growing way faster than governments are able to regulate via legislation.
A lot of this advanced growth is due to the versatile capabilities of machine learning or deep learning, a development that allows AI to adapt to new challenges by reconfiguring itself based on new data. An Ayima feature on machine learning and forecasting details how the current capabilities of AI allow it to analyze old and new data in order to make accurate and specific predictions regarding the future. This can be applied to virtually any business model, not just to increase profit, but also to help preempt and prepare for almost any foreseeable problem that might be encountered.
This is just one of the many game-changing capabilities of machine learning when it’s applied to business. Today’s AI is capable of so much more, but from machine-learning-enabled forecasting alone, you can already see why the US government is trying to take significant steps towards new legislation that can better accommodate the effects and global potential of machine learning. And while American lawmakers still haven’t passed the FUTURE of AI Act of 2017, it’s a different story in the rest of the commercially advanced world.
China, the US, and Europe are Leading Global AI Development
Under Horizon 2020 – the European Union’s (EU) biggest research and innovation program to date – the European Commission is slated to spend at least €1.5 billion ($1.73 billion) on AI development by 2020. While this is certainly not a small amount, it only represents the EU’s first major policy-related steps towards further AI development. Prior to this, on April 10, 2018, 25 member countries of the EU signed a declaration of cooperation on AI, recognizing that their citizens already use AI in their daily personal and professional lives, as well as ensuring that Europe will be at the competitive forefront of this new technology’s rapid development.
Under these new efforts, the Commission’s recently formed High Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) is slated to come up with viable policy and investment recommendations aimed at strengthening Europe’s competitiveness in AI. It's a responsibility that comes with a May 2019 deadline. This means that at least in terms of AI-related legislation, Europe is way ahead of the US. In fact, over the next decade, the EU hopes to eventually see an annual budget of €20 billion ($23 billion) directly contributing to AI development in the continent.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that the US is lagging behind Europe – it’s actually quite the opposite. The US invested $23 billion in AI research and development back in 2016. At the time, Europe had spent less than $4 billion towards the same end. So while Europe may be ahead of the US in terms of AI-related policy, America’s industries are already way ahead of Europe’s.
At the same time, the US is only second to the one country that seems to be truly on the way to dominating global AI – China. A report in the Financial Times published the opinion of Marcus Wallenberg, Chairman of defense company Saab as well as bank SEB. He explains that globally speaking, Europe has a lot of catching up to do in terms of both AI research and investment. “The Chinese and Americans have come very, very far. How far, we don’t know. In some cases, it may be hype. But unless you are at the forefront, take it very seriously, unless you introduce AI into your company, we do risk the possibility of being disrupted in a major way,” Wallenberg stated.
China Is All Set to Dominate Global AI and Related Industries
Wallenberg is absolutely right to be concerned about Europe being left behind. Granted, China is not the first country to pursue legislating AI development – the Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, Japan’s AI Technology Strategy, and AI Singapore all came before China’s Next Generation AI Plan. However, considering that China’s labor force and economic capability is the largest in the world, its comprehensive plan pretty much sweeps every other nation’s strategies under the economic rug.
In July 2017, the Chinese government laid out A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan – arguably the most comprehensive of all national, policy-shifting AI strategies currently in place. Under this plan, China aims at becoming the primary center of all AI innovation by 2030. The three-step plan wants China to be at least on par with its competitors (mostly Europe and the US) by 2020, lead AI research in certain fields by 2025, and ultimately cultivate an AI industry that is worth ¥1 trillion ($148.2 billion) by 2030 – driving ¥10 trillion ($1.1 trillion) in AI-related industries. These figures reveal not just China’s commitment to dominate the global AI landscape. It also validates just how much machine learning AI could change the modern world.
Apart from new AI-related policies, China has also released legislation in an industry that is inevitably tied to machine learning – electric vehicles (EVs). China’s already massive capacity for production can only be further strengthened and extended by AI-powered intelligent automation. Forbes reveals that the country is planning to use this capacity to target at least two million annual EV sales by the end of 2020. This includes legislation that penalizes traditional car manufacturers while rewarding the ones committed to electric transportation. In fact, part of China’s long-term strategy on EVs includes a complete ban on importing internal-combustion engine vehicles by 2030, at which point only vehicles powered by electricity or natural gas will be permitted on Chinese roads.
In relation to this, US automotive giant Ford is reportedly already working with Chinese Internet company Baidu in developing machine learning AI for autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars. Meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has been licensed to test autonomous vehicles in Beijing since 2018, and Waymo, Alphabet’s driverless car division, has already set up operations in Shanghai. In short, China’s Next Generation AI strategy is not just going according to plan, it might even be moving faster than expected. In the economic giant’s bid to dominate AI development on the planet, the industries of electric and autonomous vehicles are coming along for the ride.
Train and Invest in AI
All of these pending and active AI-related laws are clear signs that AI is no mere passing trend. In fact, they’re proof positive that the world’s most powerful governments have wised up to the value of AI, so much so that they’ve decided to lead its global development. While this means that the US, UK, and Chinese governments are going to be much more open about working with private AI developers, it also means that they’ll be closely monitoring any old or new companies that are planning to invest in AI in any way. And if you’re part of these companies, prepare to meet the brand new challenges that come with AI’s near infinite possibilities.
This goes for both veteran corporations who want to investigate AI to help streamline operations, as well as fresh startups with the primary goal of developing and providing AI-related services. Whatever industry your company is involved in – accounting, warehousing, automotive, medical, retail, logistics, delivery, entertainment, government, farming, mining, or any other significant industry – ensure that your present and future staff have the necessary training to use the latest AI in systematizing tasks. Always be on top of the latest developments in machine learning, especially in dealing with its current practical applications in whatever industry your business is focused on. There’s no better time than now to focus resources on training and investing in AI.
Pace Hadder is obsessed about the potential of AI and how it can help solve the world's most dire problems. He writes and edits content for various technology blogs.
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