White House: AI systems must receive substantial investment from government

By Jonathan Hassell

The outgoing White House technology office says that despite risks to human capital, investment in AI systems should be mandatory, asserting that the technology is critical to the future of the United States and its economic growth in the years to come.

This according to an account in Computerworld of a report from the White House titled “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy.” The report recommended increasing the investment in AI despite the potential downsides of employment displacements, removed access to quality health insurance and more, as low- or unskilled workers increasingly find their positions replaced by computers, robots and machines.

The report suggested that a large portion of the country’s future productivity growth will be a result of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The article noted that the White House’s biggest concern surrounding artificial intelligence, per Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, “is that we won’t have enough of it — and we won’t have enough productivity growth.”

The report continued, “Advances in AI technology hold incredible potential to help the United States stay on the cutting edge of innovation,” and that the government “has an important role to play in advancing the AI field by investing in research and development.”

However, by increasing overall productivity and growing the economy, the US runs the risk of intelligent machines replacing the lower rungs on the employment ladder and growing the economic inequality from which some say the nation already suffers. The report suggested mitigating these unwanted side effects of further development into AI systems — referencing several times that “technology is not destiny” — by increasing the nation’s investment in education and retraining efforts, while buttressing the social safety net programs that will assist the inevitable human capital fallout.

According to the report, however, it is unlikely we are at a full-scale human capital replacement point. “It’s unlikely that machines will exhibit anything that resembles the kind of general-purpose, humanlike intelligence that we have,” said Ed Felten, deputy CTO at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Written By

Jonathan Hassell

President, 82 Ventures

Jonathan Hassell runs 82 Ventures, a technical writing and consulting firm based in Charlotte, NC. He centers his focus around network administrator, security, the cloud, and mobile technologies.

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