Sen. Schumer teases artificial intelligence investment proposal

Sen. Charles Schumer (Senate Democrats / Flickr)

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The National Science Foundation and DARPA would coordinate on investing federal dollars in artificial intelligence research under a new proposal by the top Democrat in the Senate.

Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., says he hasn’t “firmed up” the legislation yet, but enacting the concept is one of his goals as minority leader. He teased the proposal during the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) conference on Tuesday.

“What we’re thinking about is maybe having the NSF have a subsidiary, NSTF — National Science Tech Foundation — working in concert with DARPA, which would be sort of the analogue defense agency, and it would be responsible for funding fundamental research related to AI and some other cutting edge areas,” he said.

The new group would be tasked to invest $100 billion over five years in research as well as scholarships and fellowships for students in “targeted research areas,” he said.

“What we need to do is have the federal government have a dramatically increased investment in AI, in the basic research, in the pure research that companies won’t do,” Schumer said. “We’re great here in America, and our companies are great, at taking that kind of basic and pure research and turning it into practical things.”

The proposed agency also would fund the development of “testbed type of facilities, which would be before you get to the pure research,” Schumer said.

Schumer made it clear that his proposal is, as yet, “just a discussion draft.” But, he said, it’s gotten “a lot of support” from people “very close” to President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

“Anyone here who has any relationships with those people or anyone near them should be pushing this,” he said, in an appeal to the gathered audience.

“This should not be a political issue,” Schumer said. “This should be … like putting a man on the moon.”

On Monday, NSCAI released its interim report to Congress. The 15-person commission advocates for increased AI research and development spending by the federal government, among other things.

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artificial intelligence (AI), Charles Schumer, DARPA, National Science Foundation (NSF), National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Senate
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