In December 2015, Foreign Affairs published an article on The Fourth Industrial Revolution, What It Means and How to Respond.
Penned by Klaus Schwab - Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum - the article anticipated a society driven by technologies blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological.
Then came Society 5.0, Japan’s attempt to build on Revolution 4.0 by wrapping technological innovation into a new economic model and social contract.
As part of its Society 5.0 play, Japan announced its Artificial Intelligence Technology Strategy in March 2017.
The same year, China responded by pledging to dominate the AI landscape by 2030 with its own national strategy - with academic and commercial organizations in China working closely with the military on AI projects they call 'military-civil fusion'.
In April 2018, the British government announced AI investment worth more than $1.2 billion. Later that month, the French announced an AI plan including $1.6 billion in funding, new research centers, data-sharing initiatives and ethical guidelines.
In November 2018, the German federal government officially adopted its Artificial Intelligence Strategy. A year later, it announced $3 billion AI investment to 2025, including the creation of at least 100 new AI professorships, improved research, education and training.
In August 2019, the Japanese government responded with a $1.4 billion injection into The Innovation Network Corp. of Japan, with eventual investment in AI and big data expected to grow beyond $4 billion.
THE AMERICAN AI INITIATIVE
In May 2018, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote a memo to President Trump, requesting a US national strategy for artificial intelligence and arguing that the United States was not keeping pace with the AI ambitions of China and other countries.
Declaring “the policy of the United States Government [is] to sustain and enhance the scientific, technological, and economic leadership position of the United States in AI", the American AI Initiative announced:
The age of artificial intelligence (AI) has arrived, and is transforming everything from healthcare to transportation to manufacturing.
America has long been the global leader in this new era of AI, and is poised to maintain this leadership going forward because of our strong innovation ecosystem. Realizing the full potential of AI for the Nation requires the combined efforts of industry, academia, and government. The Administration has been active in developing policies and implementing strategies that accelerate AI innovation in the U.S. for the benefit of the American people. These activities align with several areas of emphasis: AI for American Innovation, AI for American Industry, AI for the American Worker, and AI with American Values.
In January 2020, the White House joined more dots in its AI strategy by releasing 10 principles for government agencies to adhere to when proposing new AI regulations for the private sector.
These principles are:
Public trust in AI: Government must promote reliable, robust and trustworthy AI.
Public participation: The public should have the opportunity for feedback on all stages of the rule-making process.
Scientific integrity and information quality: Policy decisions should be based on scientific principles.
Risk assessment and management: Agencies should decide on acceptable and unacceptable risk.
Benefits and costs: Societal impact must be considered in all proposed AI regulation.
Flexibility: Policy should be adaptable to rapid changes and updates to AI applications.
Fairness and nondiscrimination: Agencies should prohibit illegal discrimination in AI systems.
Disclosure and transparency: To build trust, the American public should know how and when AI is being used.
Safety and security: Government agencies should keep all AI data and systems safe and secure.
Interagency coordination: Agencies must communicate to ensure consistent and predictable AI-related policies.
Going further, the White House has confirmed that:
The Trump Administration is committed to promoting an international environment that supports AI R&D and opens markets for American AI industries while also ensuring that the technology is developed in a manner consistent with our Nation’s values and interests. The United States supports international AI collaborations and partnerships that are grounded in evidence-based approaches, analytical research, and multi-stakeholder engagements that bring different perspectives together.
In the words of Michael Kratsios - Chief Technology Officer of the United States - the US seeks "AI that reflects American values", in a world where "We don’t have to decide between freedom and technology."
Across the pond, this theme is echoed with the European Commission pledging to develop an "appropriate" ethical and legal framework for AI development that balances innovation with the individual rights of EU citizens.
With the General Data Protection Regulation, we [the EU] set the pattern for the world. We have to do the same with artificial intelligence. Because in Europe we start with the human being. It is not about damming up the flow of data. It is about making rules that define how to handle data responsibly. For us, the protection of a person's digital identity is the overriding priority.
With the European Commission expected to launch its AI regulatory guide in February 2020, EU standards will soon be clear.
In advance of this, however, Mr Kratsios has 'encouraged' the Commission to adopt America's 10 Principles as an EU policy framework.
In this, the US has sent a message - perhaps one of escalation dominance - where AI "technology is developed in a manner with our Nation's values and interests".
When it comes to AI, the US has broken cover in trying to shape the global order. For now at least, however, AI standards will remain national or supranational - not global.
Made in America, China, Europe or Japan - the narrative is multi-polar, the AI ante definitely upped.
P.S. With the imminent Brexit withdrawal, which way will the UK jump?
The US or EU model? The Chinese model, perhaps linked to the UK Huawei 5G decision? Or a mix-and-match of different international standards?