AI at the White House: Companies, academics to discuss what’s next

(White House / Flickr)

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The White House will convene a group of industry and academic stakeholders to discuss the future and promise of artificial intelligence in a meeting on Thursday.

Representatives from 41 companies involved in developing or deploying AI — including Amazon, Google and Microsoft but also companies like John Deere and Quest Diagnostics — are on an industry attendee list provided by the White House. A further 10 participants from academia are also mentioned. The meeting will be led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with participation from other executive offices and leadership from “numerous” federal agencies also present, OSTP confirmed to FedScoop.

The event will tackle questions on supporting the national AI research-and-development ecosystem, developing the American workforce to take advantage of the benefits of AI, removing barriers to AI innovation and more, according to a draft agenda for the event. Breakout sessions will discuss the impact of AI across a variety of industries including health care, financial services and agriculture.

“The summit will call attention to the great American industries already using AI technologies to improve their services to the American people and to benefit the American worker,” the draft event plan reads. “The stakeholder input collected at the event will inform Federal government efforts to maintain U.S. leadership in AI development and deployment.”

OSTP convened a similar kind of meeting with representatives from 5G and drone companies in June of last year. Following that meeting, in October, President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum aimed at encouraging the Federal Aviation Administration to streamline the drone testing process.

De facto OSTP leader Michael Kratsios, who is otherwise the office’s deputy CTO, said in a speech in December 2017 that this is precisely the kind of work his office wants to be doing. “If you’re trying to do something innovative …” he said at the time, “and you run into these kinds of rules and regulations … we want to hear about that.” It is the mission of his office, he added, to “get those roadblocks out of the way.”

The Information Technology Industry Council applauded the news of the upcoming meeting.

“The tech sector is committed to ensuring that all Americans reap the benefits of this transformative technology, which has the potential to save lives, improve how we harvest food, transform education and more,” ITI CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement. “In order to maintain America’s leadership on AI, the administration should continue to invest in research and development, and advance programs that equip the workforce with skills of the future.”

Government research into AI was a priority for the previous administration as well. Just before Trump’s election, in October 2016, the Obama White House released an “extensive report” on the government’s role in the continued development of AI.

In the report, the administration advised agencies to look at creating a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-like organization to support “high-risk, high-reward AI research and its application,” and suggested that agencies “prioritize open training data and open data standards in AI.”

OSTP still doesn’t have a director or CTO. Bill Gates recently told Stat News that Trump offered him the job of science advisor in an Oval Office Meeting, but Gates told the president “that’s not a good use of my time.”

Artificial intelligence was one of FedScoop’s top emerging technologies for 2018.

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AI, artificial intelligence, Donald Trump, Michael Kratsios, Office of Science and Technology Poilcy, White House