The US joined a global AI partnership for coronavirus recovery to stick it to China

Michael Kratsios speaks Sept. 29, 2018, at a technology event in Fargo, North Dakota. (North Dakota Department of Transportation / Flickr)

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G-7 science and technology ministers launched the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence with an initial focus on coronavirus response and recovery in a Thursday declaration.

The intergovernmental organization consists of major economies Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. Initially the U.S. declined to join GPAI as the Trump administration eschewed most international agreements.

That position though changed as the U.S. has looked to contrast its democratic vision of trustworthy, explainable AI with China‘s perceived misuse.

“AI is being twisted by authoritarian regimes to violate rights,” Michael Kratsios, U.S. chief technology officer, wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Wednesday. “The Chinese Communist Party is reportedly using AI to uncover and punish those who criticize the regime’s pandemic response and to institute a type of coronavirus social-credit score — assigning people color codes to determine who is free to go out and who will be forced into quarantine.”

The U.S. intends to “push back” against that approach to AI as Chinese companies attempt to shape international facial recognition and surveillance standards at the U.N. International Telecommunication Union, Kratsios wrote.

Kratsios and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Kelvin Droegmeier led the COVID-19 ministerial meeting, which further resolved to increase use of high-performance computing in related research. The White House announced its COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium would begin sharing data and resources with the Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe, while also adding the U.K. Research and Innovation and the Swiss National Computing Centre to its ranks.

“Together we have a vision of overcoming the pandemic, and outcomes from the latest G7 meeting are pushing us toward a brighter future for our nations,” Droegmeier said in a statement. “Our shared values, collective work and strong collaboration are making a difference for the world’s researchers and citizens.”

Research priorities mentioned in the declaration include tracking the coronavirus’ spread, developing new testing technologies, deploying a vaccine, modeling health system management, and predicting future pandemics.

G-7 nations also committed to making government-sponsored COVID-19 epidemiological data and results machine-readable “to the greatest extent possible,” while still respecting privacy and  intellectual property laws. OSTP released the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset, now exceeding 128,000 machine-readable articles, in March.

GPAI will share best practices on improving broadband connectivity for telework, telemedicine and distance learning while promoting data security, according to the declaration.

In his op-ed, Kratsios likened U.S. involvement in GPAI to the Prague Proposals strengthening 5G security and the Blue Dot Network for high-quality global infrastructure development.

The U.S. is on pace to double spending on AI research and development by 2022 under the current administration’s national strategy, the American AI Initiative, Kratsios wrote. In January, the White House proposed the first binding set of principles for regulatory consistency among agencies trying to govern private sector development of AI.

“Today, the United States joins with G7 countries to strengthen our science and technology collaboration, setting the stage for accelerated scientific discovery and strong economic growth,” Kratsios said in a statement.

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artificial intelligence (AI), China, coronavirus, COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, G-7, Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, Kelvin Droegmeier, Michael Kratsios, Office of Science and Technology Policy
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