Trump signs executive order to spur American AI innovation

President Donald Trump on Monday signed the new American AI Initiative, which calls for the federal government to prioritize research and development for machine learning in healthcare and elsewhere – a recognition that the country needs to play catch-up in the global push for AI innovation.

The executive order calls for the government to promote technical education and apprenticeships, and to boost STEM and computer science in schools and universities – especially for women and girls, according to a White House announcement.

Among the other provisions of the project: increasing access to federal data and and other computational resources for AI researchers; calling for regulatory agencies to set guidance for AI development and use in various sectors of the economy, including healthcare; directing NIST to develop more technical and safety standards for AI systems; and “promoting a responsible approach to AI by encouraging transformative applications” of the the technology.

“Developing America’s ability to leverage AI is critical to increasing prosperity, enhancing our national and economic security, and protecting our values,” according to the Trump administration’s statement. “Investment in AI is critical to creating the industries of the future like autonomous cars, industrial robots, algorithms for disease diagnosis, and more.”

The White House added that the U.S. “urgently needs workers and businesses skilled in AI and capable of leading our country’s development and application of AI into the future.”

But that urgency is tempered somewhat by the fact that the initiative has no new funding attached to it – and instead is supported by redirecting resources from other areas of the federal government.

America has its work cut out for it as it seeks to stay competitive with AI on a global stage – not least in healthcare. This January, Healthcare IT News AsiaPac Editor Dean Koh reported that IT investment in China’s hospital system estimated to reach 65.7 billion yuan ($9.5 billion) by 2022 – much of that is in the form of leading-edge AI, such as 14 hospitals in Guangdong that are expected to have deployed the AI-enabled cameras that can detect blindness by next month.

Europe is pursuing similar initiatives too, such as a recent EU plan to boost AI collaboration and development across healthcare and beyond. In the U.S., AI is already proving its value to healthcare in countless ways – but more investments and R&D can only help boost its success.

Early response to Trump’s AI initiative news was mixed. The Center for Data Innovation put out a statement welcoming the announcement.

“Accelerating the development and adoption of AI holds the potential to increase productivity, grow the economy, and harness the many societal benefits the technology can bring,” said CDI Director Daniel Castro. “The administration’s initiative will prioritize AI research and training programs and boost auxiliary infrastructure such as data and other inputs.”

Castro cautioned, however, that if the Trump administration “wants its AI initiative to be transformative, it will need to do more than reprogram existing funds for AI research, skill development and infrastructure development.”

At HIMSS18 in Orlando, health IT leader Dr. John Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m Harvard’s international healthcare innovation professor, which means I travel 400,000 miles a year and I experience healthcare in every culture,” said Halamka. “I’ll tell you, there is a huge push outside of the U.S. to curate data and use machine learning models to reduce costs and improve quality.

“The U.S. has a chance to be a leader,” he said. “But only if it focuses its resources on this area. And with today’s signing, one hopes we’ll have awareness – and will commit budgets – so we can be competitive in the world AI landscape.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication. 

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