US tech firms and universities back AI research platform law

By on 07/07/2020 | Updated on 24/09/2020
Stanford: Some of the USA’s top universities have joined the call to create a national AI platform, broadening access to testing and development facilities. (Photo by John Loo via flickr).

More than 20 major US universities and technology companies have given their support to bipartisan legislation aimed at creating a national artificial intelligence (AI) research platform, it emerged last week.

Companies including Google, IBM and Microsoft, alongside Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, and Johns Hopkins universities, signed a letter supporting the National AI Research Task Force Act, which was introduced to both the Senate and the House of Representatives last month.

The Act is intended to create a group of government scientists, academics and industry professionals tasked with planning, creating and funding a national AI research platform. The platform would probably be based on commercial cloud systems, rather than in government laboratories and supercomputers. 

National AI sandpit

The move is seen as strategically important, given China’s declared intention to become a world leader in AI technology by 2030. “AI is shaping our lives in so many ways, but the true potential of it to improve society is still being discovered by researchers,” said congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo. “This legislation ensures that our country will retain our global lead in AI.”

Senator Rob Portman added: “We cannot take America’s AI leadership for granted. With China focused on toppling the United States’ leadership in AI, we need to redouble our efforts with a sustained commitment to the best and brightest by developing a national research cloud to ensure our technical researchers get the tools they need to succeed. 

“This legislation takes the first steps towards a national research cloud. By democratizing access to computing power, we ensure that any American with computer science talent can pursue their good ideas.”

Democratising AI research

Both Eric Schmidt, chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and former Google CEO, and Bob Work, co-chair of the commission and former deputy secretary of defence, backed the legislation. 

“It is an essential first step towards the establishment of a national resource that would accelerate and strengthen AI research across the US by removing the high-cost barrier to entry of computer and data resources,” they said in a joint statement.

“If realized, this infrastructure would democratize AI research and development outside of elite universities and big technology companies and further enable the application of AI approaches across scientific fields and disciplines, unlocking breakthroughs that will drive growth in our economy and strengthen national security.”

John Etchemendy, co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence and Provost Emeritus at Stanford University, added: “The National AI Research Resource Task Force Act of 2020 is vital to American innovation.

“A national research cloud will give academic researchers the tools needed to advance artificial intelligence far into the future. It will also elevate the ability of all colleges and universities to provide the research and teaching needed to maintain our competitiveness in AI.”

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