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Opinion The challenge of promoting AI innovation

Statues of artificial intelligence robots decorate a common area at Baidu Inc. headquarters in Beijing on March 4. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

The March 10 editorial “A dire message on AI,” pushing for decisive action in response to China’s organized advance in artificial intelligence, provided useful advice. Attention for better support of AI technology starts for some with security concerns that the “armed forces could lose their competitive advantage.” The broader problem, as the editorial made clear, concerns what many call an AI era.  

The United States is not prepared to compete with China’s coordinated plans in areas that modern machine learning will impact. The argument pushing for needed reforms should resonate because it follows as a lesson from the experience of our fractured coronavirus pandemic response. This makes visible our inertia in response to expert advice and even active pushback from anti-science stances such as climate change denial and mask and vaccine resistance.

The security view of our overall failings to support AI innovation and tech investment push us into action, but it hasn’t worked with health insecurity. The broader issue that might motivate and pull us forward is recognition that modern AI, driven in part by advances in machine learning, the harnessing of Big Data and powerful computing, has the potential to amplify human ingenuity and help solve the challenges, including more productive work and climate change mitigation.

We know some version of AI will transform industries, making businesses more productive, but will it help us enrich customer and citizen lives? To do that, AI innovation will have to build trust by balancing bottom lines and simple visions with responsible human values. That is a grand challenge, as they say, and more than a technical one.

Gary Berg-Cross, Potomac

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