White House Pledges to Open Government Data -- Fuel AI Boom

The president’s most senior technology advisor is announcing that the White House is secretly pursuing an aggressive AI plan. Now with many of the seemingly backwards policies ( Bringing back coal, immigration, the Paris Agreement, etc ) coming out of the Trump Administration. Seems hard to believe that they're pushing technology forward.  

Pushing AI Research Forward

Michael Kratsios, who is Donald Trump’s chief technology advisor, said -- speaking at a MIT conference in early June called EmTech Next, that the US government would release any data that might help push forward AI research in the United States.

Now although he did not specifically say immediately what kind of data would be released or who will get access to receive the information. He went on to say that the government is looking for ways to unlock federal data to AI researchers.

 Unlock Government Data.

“Anything that we can do to unlock government data, we’re committed to,” Kratsios told EmTech Next conference. “We’d love to hear from any academic that has any insights.”  

It’s no secret that data has been a crucial factor behind recent breakthrough or advances in artificial intelligence.  As an example, improved voice recognition and image processing have been dependent on the availability of vastly large quantities of training data.  

The government has access to large amounts of data, and it’s possible that it could be used to train innovation algorithms to do new tasks. Kratsios say’s  “Anything we can do to figure that out, we will work very hard on.”

Discreetly Pushing.

The Trump administration has faced vast criticism for a more indifferent approach to AI than many other countries have already taken.

Kratsios argued that the White house is discreetly pushing an aggressive policy, pointing to examples of research projects that have gotten federal funding. When he was asked about Trump’s particular interest in artificial intelligence, Kratsios answered, “The White House has prioritized AI, and he obviously runs the White House.”   

Trump’s administration recently convened a meeting of AI experts at the White House, and it announced the creation of a select committee dedicated to AI. This committee has not yet met though.    

Chief Technology Advisor.    

Trump’s chief technology advisor reverberated that the White House claims that the government has increased funding for AI automation by 40 percent. Picking apart these numbers is a bit challenging for a few reasons: because much of the funding is classified, “AI” and “automation” are broad and somewhat non-specific terms, and funding in these areas has historically been tracked very closely.  


The issue is challenging, to say the least, considering that fact that automation has already played a role in job loss or displacement across the country - which is a key factor for many Trump voters. And besides gaining new efficiencies and revenue, artificial intelligence might well lead to further disruption for many workers. 

China's Commitment. 

Currently, the US’s approach to AI is most certainly less public than approaches from any other governments. China for instance, has made a bold commitment to artificial intelligence.  It has called for an AI industry worth hundreds of billions over the next couple of years, and their government has challenged Chinese AI researchers to surpass their international counterparts by the year 2030.

Businesses in China are already building a reputation for cutting-edge innovation in areas such as image and voice processing and autonomous driving cars.  Now other governments around the globe, including India, the UK as well as France, have announced similarly bold AI initiatives. 

Conversely, the Trump administration is also following immigration and trade policies that are making it more difficult, not easier for universities and tech companies to attract AI talent from other countries. Currently the United State’s is the leader in artificial intelligence, but for how long will that still be the case?

Kratsios responded by saying the government would go after an immigration policy that would let AI P.H. D researchers and engineers in, and he signaled that the White House feels the US has a formidable lead over other countries. “It’s not surprising that countries are embracing an industry the US has been leading on for years,” he said.

On a final note from his talk, Kratsios said that the Office of Science and Technology has about 60 staffers today, compared with around 120 during the Obama administration, and he claimed that the office has a broad range of expertise in everything from quantum computing to energy as well as AI.