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The US Finally Has An Artificial Intelligence Strategy (Sort of)

The US Finally Has An Artificial Intelligence Strategy (Sort of)

This week, President Trump signed an executive order directing the US government to come up with a plan to sharpen America's edge in artificial intelligence. It's the closest Washington has come to laying out a national strategy for AI since Trump took office, and comes nearly two years after Beijing's central planners unveiled their ambitious plan to turn China in to the world leader in AI by 2030.

Here's a quick primer on how to think about the emerging US approach to a field that will shape the global balance of power in coming decades.



The private sector is in the driver's seat

The US and China both increasingly see success in AI as a national imperative, but to the extent that the countries are in a "race" to master AI, it's one between Silicon Valley and China's highly capable tech companies – not governments. Policies that flow from Washington and Beijing will play an important role in shaping how the AI revolution pans out, but government plans and the actual innovation needed to get there are two different things.

The emerging US strategy: play defense

For decades, the US's national technology strategy has been one of benign neglect: keep the government out of the way and reap the benefits of private sector innovation. But that's now changing under pressure from an increasingly influential contingent of national security hawks. They're worried that if China catches up to or surpasses the US in AI or other key technology fields, it could blunt US military superiority and dull America's economic edge.

While Trump's executive order calls on federal agencies to come up with new ways to boost the AI sector in the US, such as making more federal data available for training AI algorithms and prioritizing AI in government R&D funding, the main thrust of the strategy is defensive. The order is focused on protecting America's AI advantage rather than using public resources to develop new technologies. If the ongoing trade war and recent legal actionsagainst Huawei are any guide, that could mean policies that make it harder for Chinese students to study in the US, or other efforts to limit Chinese access to US technologies – like semiconductors – that are key to making progress in AI.

The risk? In a word, overreach. President Trump wants to protect American innovation, but there's a danger that the US ends up shooting itself in the foot by cutting off the cross-border flows of capital, talent, and knowhow that Silicon Valley has historically tapped to make new breakthroughs.

Pop quiz: what percentage of plastic currently gets recycled worldwide? Watch this video in Eni's Energy Shot series to find out and learn what needs to be done to prevent plastic from ending up in our oceans. Plastic is a precious resource that should be valued, not wasted.

This Monday, March 8, is International Women's Day, a holiday with roots in a protest led by the Russian feminist Alexandra Kollontai that helped topple the Tsar of Russia in 1917. More than a hundred years later, amid a global pandemic that has affected women with particular fury, there are dozens of women-led protests and social movements reshaping politics around the globe. Here we take a look at a few key ones to watch this year.

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny shocked the world last year when he recovered from an attempted assassination plot by poisoning — an attempt that bore all the fingerprints of Russian government. Then he shocked the world again by returning to Russia and timing that return with the release of an hours-long documentary that catalogued the Putin regime's extensive history of corruption. Virtually no one, therefore, was shocked when he was immediately sentenced to a lengthy prison term. Anne Applebaum, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and expert on authoritarian regimes, believes there was a method to Navalny's madness. "His decision of '….I'm going to do something that harms me personally, but is going to be a lesson for Russians. I'm going teach a generation of Russians how to be brave.' I mean, not very many people would have the guts to do that."

Applebaum's conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World, airing on public television stations nationwide starting Friday, March 5. Check local listings.

It's not like things are going well in Mexico.

COVID has killed more people there than in any country except the United States and Brazil. Just 2 percent of Mexicans have gotten a first vaccine jab, compared with nearly 24 in the US. The Biden administration made clear this week that it won't send vaccines to its southern neighbor until many more Americans have been vaccinated. Mexico's government has cut deals for doses from China, Russia, and India.

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A body blow for Pakistan's Prime Minister: Imran Khan suffered an embarrassing defeat this week when members of the National Assembly, the country's lower house, voted to give the opposition bloc a majority in the Senate. (In Pakistan, lower house legislators and provincial assemblies elect senators in a secret ballot.) The big drama of it all is that Khan's own Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party holds a lower house majority, which means that lawmakers supposedly loyal to his party voted in secret for opposition candidates. Khan's allies claim that PTI members were bribed to support the opposition, and the prime minister says he will ask for a lower house vote of confidence in his leadership. That vote will not be secret, but even if he survives, the political damage is done. Without a Senate majority, he has no chance of passing key reform plans, including constitutional amendments meant to centralize financial and administrative control in the federal government. Khan has, however, refused to resign.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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