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The Trump Administration has announced a commitment to prioritize funding for artificial intelligence (AI) research and computing infrastructure, autonomous systems, and machine learning.

At the first “Artificial Intelligence for American Industry Summit,” hosted at the White House on May 10, discussion covered AI research and development (R&D), workforce development, sector-specific use cases for AI, and regulatory barriers.

Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios said the administration’s “free-market” approach “uniquely positions us to leverage this technology for the betterment of our great nation.”

AI R&D Budget

According to a May 10 White House briefing, President Donald Trump’s fiscal year (FY) 2019 budget request is unprecedented, as no previous administration has designated AI or unmanned and autonomous systems as R&D priorities. The briefing did not state how much of the budget will be allocated to AI R&D for FY 2019. A separate report specifies the FY 2019 budget will provide $811 million to the Department of Energy’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research Program.

For historical context, in 2015, the U.S. government invested approximately $1.1 billion in R&D for AI-related technologies. In 2016, estimates showed an increase of $100 million in AI R&D investment, or growth to $1.2 billion.

Trump’s federal R&D budget request for the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program for FY 2018 was $4.46 billion. Neither NITRD nor the White House specified how much of that budget request was or will be allocated to AI R&D.

For historical context, the FY 2017 and FY 2016 budget requests for the NITRD Program were $4.54 billion and approximately $4.49 billion, respectively.

AI Regulations Across Sectors

In a 2016 report, the NITRD Subcommittee posited that the Federal Government should “emphasize AI investments in areas of strong societal importance that are not aimed at consumer markets — areas such as AI for public health, urban systems and smart communities, social welfare, criminal justice, environmental sustainability, and national security, as well as long-term research that accelerates the production of AI knowledge and technologies.”

A tenet of the May 10 White House AI summit was maintaining American leadership in the global race to develop and deploy AI and emerging AI-powered tech, such as automated vehicles, health and healthcare technology, robotics, and military applications. According to the White House, “overly burdensome regulations do not stop innovation — they just move it overseas.”

Over the past eight months, the Trump Administration has removed regulatory barriers to the deployment of AI-powered technology. Last September, the Department of Transportation updated the 2016 Federal Automated Vehicles Policy, giving non-regulatory guidance about the best practices for the safe pre-deployment design, development, and testing of driverless cars (or, highly automated vehicles) onto American roads.

In October of 2017, Trump signed a Presidential Memorandum permitting the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Pilot. This program allows U.S. state, local, and tribal governments to partner with private organizations to conduct innovative commercial and public drone operations.

The aim of the pilot program is to assist the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration with development of laws and rules about low-altitude operations. This guidance will be achieved through improved communications between local and national entities and meaningful dialogue about unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) integration. The pilot program is also intended to encourage safe development and testing of innovative concepts for UAS operations.

In April of 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), for the first time, permitted marketing for an AI-powered medical device. The software program can detect “greater than a mild level” of diabetic retinopathy in adults with diabetes. The IDx-DR is the first medical device approved by the FDA for marketing that uses AI to make a screening decision without the need for a clinician’s final interpretation or diagnosis.

The Future of AI R&D

A federal prioritization of AI R&D combined with the deregulation of the development space could mean that a world of unfettered innovation lies ahead for organizations making or using AI-powered software, hardware, and services.

Our esteemed research analysts at Aberdeen have been hip to the AI space for some time now, and have much to offer you in terms of vendor-agnostic (and innovation-enthusiastic!) research pertaining to AI development, deployment, and applications.

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