Is the US Falling Behind in Artificial Intelligence?
Last week, the Trump Administration signed the American AI Initiative in response to concerns the US is falling behind China in artificial intelligence.
While the US is still the leader in IP generation for AI and deep machine learning, China is quickly narrowing the gap.
Top AI IP Generators (2018 Patents, 5 yr Growth Rate):
US (6,286; 30%)
Japan (1,174; 37%)
Korea (719; 56%)
China (583; 65%)
Germany (497; 20%)
The Big Picture
Unlike its peers, the Chinese government can organize resources and industrial activity on a massive scale - giving it a significant advantage in driving technology development and commercialization.
And while China continues to illegally appropriate foreign IP, it has also quietly developed a strong IP protection regime, encouraging regional and even Western companies to seek IP protection for AI technology in China.
The Next 10 Years
US companies still lead the world in R&D for AI and machine learning. However, our universities and research institutions are falling behind their peers in China and southeast Asia.
Half of the top 20 Universities in IP generation for AI are Chinese or Korean.
If the US is serious about AI, significant steps are required to incentive AI research in academia and forge stronger connections between researchers and companies that are already applying AI techniques.
The Dark Side of AI
In addition to the emergence of near-peer competitors in AI, the US also faces threats from the technology itself.
Deepfakes, AI-driven forgeries that are indistinguishable from real videos, are becoming more common. More concerning - they are increasingly accessible to people without AI expertise.
The emergence of deepfakes highlights a concerning trend. The pace of technology development is faster than ever before, and regulatory frameworks have no chance of keeping pace with the negative externalities created by new technology.
In the absence of government guidance, individual companies have stepped in. However, their involvement is limited to protecting their own interests (for example, Facebook has invested in technology to detect deepfakes on its own platform).
Without large-scale, coordinated action, negative externailities like deepfakes will create significant economic and political instability, which in turn become a drag on new technology growth.
Overall, AI is already generating tremendous economic value for the US and the world. But in order for the US to harness the potential of AI and maintain our position as an economic and technological leader, we need to make significant steps to drive new development, improve commercialization, and manage negative externalities.