Trump expected to sign order prioritizing AI research spending

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(Bloomberg) --President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order Monday that will direct the U.S. government to prioritize artificial intelligence in its research and development spending, according to a White House official.

The order, which comes amid concerns about China’s ambitions to dominate the sector and the likelihood of disruption for workers as the technology automates millions of jobs, doesn’t outline specific funding goals, said the official, who asked not to be named discussing future plans. It does, however, aim to ensure that AI develops in a manner that reflects U.S. values and to push training for the future workforce.

The moves occurs less than a week after Trump’s State of the Union address, when he said investments in “cutting edge industries of the future” as part of a broader infrastructure package were “a necessity.” The White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy said in a statement during the speech on Feb. 5 that AI was among the industries Trump was referring to, alongside 5G broadband, advanced manufacturing and others.

Tech leaders have also been pressing the administration for additional R&D funding and a more focused education strategy.

In December, top tech chief executives -- including Google’s Sundar Pichai, International Business Machines Corp.’s Ginni Rometty and Microsoft Corp.’s Satya Nadella -- met with White House officials including Ivanka Trump on similar topics.

In May, a top White House technology official, Michael Kratsios, assured participants from more than 100 companies across several sectors of the economy that the administration would pursue a hands-off regulatory approach to AI to allow it to grow unfettered.

Monday’s order does envision regulatory guidance to ensure the technology is trustworthy, said the White House official.

The administration’s action occurs against a backdrop of aggressive moves by China, stoking fears that a country seen by the U.S. as having little respect for privacy will overtake it and establish dominance in a technology with tremendous implications for national security. The Chinese government has made a 10-fold increase in AI output a national priority for coming years, and many companies there are deploying machine-learning systems to update banking services, identify faces in crowds, and control drones.

The order will not cover intellectual property protections or export controls, which the administration has sought to use to constrain China in other areas, the official said, but aims to open markets for U.S. companies.

Bloomberg News