American tech companies are taking AI into unchartered territory -- creating tools like Google's Duplex that are both astoundingly impressive and somewhat unsettling. While the potential of AI -- along with its societal implications -- remains to be seen, the Trump White House is promising a hands-off approach to regulation.
"While America will always approach artificial intelligence prudently, we will not hamstring American potential on the international stage," Michael Kratsios, current head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, told a group of technology and business leaders gathered at the White House Thursday, according to his prepared remarks.
Around 40 companies, including Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Nvidia, Walmart and General Electric, were represented at the White House summit on AI.
"Our Administration is not in the business of conquering imaginary beasts," Kratsios told the group. "We will not try to 'solve' problems that don't exist... We didn't roll out the red tape before Edison turned on the first lightbulb. We didn't cut the lines before Alexander Graham bell made the first telephone call."
Kratsios noted that drones are delivering life-saving medicines in Africa, but he said, "because of overbearing regulations in America, what saves lives in Rwanda is banned in Raleigh."
One negative consequence of AI that's expected to impact the US is the displacement of workers. The Obama administration recommended "aggressive" public policy to ensure all Americans benefit from AI.
Kratsios on Thursday acknowledged that "to a certain degree job displacement is inevitable."
He continued, "But we can't sit idle, hoping eventually the market will sort it out. We must do what Americans have always done: adapt."
While promising a light regulatory touch, Kratsios also suggested the federal government could help industry efforts to advance AI by expanding access to federal data "in ways that don't compromise privacy or security."
Additionally, he announced the formation of a new AI committee, under the National Science and Technology Council, that will advise the White House and help coordinate AI investments and research efforts across the government. The committee will be comprised of senior R&D officials across from various federal agencies.