Artificial Intelligence Can Serve Democracy – The Wall Street Journal

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  • May 27, 2020
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Michael Kratsios

May 27, 2020 6:25 pm ET

The U.S. is using every tool at its disposal to defeat the novel coronavirus, including artificial intelligence. American laboratories are harnessing AI to discover new therapeutics. The Food and Drug Administration approved an AI tool to help detect coronavirus in CT scans. And the White House led an initiative to create a database with more than 128,000 articles that scientists can analyze using AI to help understand the virus better and develop treatments.

At the same time, AI is being twisted by authoritarian regimes to violate rights. The Chinese Communist Party is reportedly using AI to uncover and punish those who criticize the regime’s pandemic response and to institute a type of coronavirus social-credit score—assigning people color codes to determine who is free to go out and who will be forced into quarantine.

As the world begins to recover from the pandemic, nations face a stark choice about what vision of artificial intelligence will prevail. As Group of Seven nations meet this year under the organization’s U.S. presidency, there is a critical opportunity to shape the evolution of AI in a way that respects fundamental rights and upholds our shared values. That is why G-7 technology ministers will agree Thursday to launch the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence, or GPAI, together with other democratic countries.


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In this new forum, like-minded nations will work together to encourage the development of AI in line with our shared values. Most immediately, GPAI members will commit to developing and using AI responsibly to fight the coronavirus pandemic—including efforts to speed up drug discovery, improve disease diagnosis, and aid telehealth services.

The partnership brings together world-wide experts from industry, civil society, academia and governments to advance research on AI technical topics such as trustworthiness and explainability. It will also explore AI workforce development and approaches to spur AI innovation and commercialization.

The Trump administration’s primary duty is to the American people. Although U.S. and our allies have diverse approaches to AI policy and regulation, the democratic principles that unite GPAI nations matter far more than our differences.

This is especially true as authoritarian regimes abuse AI and try to bend existing international organizations to serve their interests. Chinese technology companies are attempting to shape international standards around facial recognition and surveillance at the United Nations International Telecommunication Union, while the Chinese government’s misuse of such technologies has been well documented.

It is critical that America stand alongside those who share and promote our values and push back on such efforts. The U.S. has done so before, when we joined with our allies in the Prague Proposals to strengthen 5G security and the Blue Dot Network to promote high-quality global infrastructure development.

While the U.S. continues to work with international partners, the Trump administration has redoubled its commitment to leadership in AI. We firmly believe that the only way to protect our citizens and uphold our rights in the age of artificial intelligence is to develop AI here at home. When we create technology instead of importing it, we retain the power to shape technology in a manner consistent with our values.

To supercharge innovation here at home, the Trump administration launched the American AI Initiative—the national strategy on artificial intelligence. Under President Trump, federal nondefense AI research-and-development spending has increased dramatically and is on a path to double by 2022. The White House proposed the U.S. AI Regulatory Principles, the first-ever national framework for AI governance, to advance American innovation while upholding civil liberties, privacy, and American values. This administration has also led historic international collaboration, working with allies last year to establish the first intergovernmental principles for the responsible stewardship of AI.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated both the benefits and the dangers of AI. GPAI will be launched at a moment when critical decisions about the use of AI have far-reaching implications. It matters more than ever that America and our allies remain united by a desire to drive technology leadership and protect cherished rights and freedoms. When we do, we will use remarkable innovations not only to defeat the virus, but also to build a flourishing future.

Mr. Kratsios is chief technology officer of the United States and deputy assistant to the president for technology policy.

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