ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND THE FAILURE OF AMERICA

For the past 50 years, the American economy has been propelled by the combination of three innovations:

  • the computer
  • the microchip
  • the internet

 

The research and development that produced each of these came from a partnership of government, academia and business.

That cooperation and effort was led by Vannevar Bush, an MIT professor who built an early analog computer in 1931.

When the war ended, President Roosevelt ordered Bush to propose a plan that advocated government funding of basic research in a partnership with university and industry.’

Bush said at the time, “Science is the endless frontier (later modified by Gene Rodenberry for Start Trek, “Space is the final frontier) that leads to new knowledge.  It provides scientific capital which creates the fund from which the practical applications of knowledge can be drawn.”

Today, under the leadership of Donald Trump, America has yielded its position as the world leader in science and technology.

The causes of this situation are.

  • Federally-funded research has been reduced from 1.2% of GDP in 1976 to .8% of GDP in 2018. The lowest level since the pre-Sputnik ear.
  • In 1960, 70% of all R&D was federally funded, with 30% coming from the private sector. Now those figures are reversed.  This has caused a reduction in basic scientific research that has, in the past, produced seeds of great innovation.

As bad as this has been, it is getting worse under Donald Trump who has reduced federal funding for science and technology an additional 15%.

This is the opposite of the path taken by China which is investing heavily in AI and genetic engineering.

In its 13th Five-Year Plan, released in 2016, China announced its ambition to transform China into a nation of innovation.  In addition, in May 2017, China added “Artificial Intelligence 2” as the 16th mega-project.

They intend to accomplish this using the same method America once did: combining government, academia and business initiatives.

A single city in China, Tianjin, is raising $5 billion dollars to support AI development.  At the same time, the central government is building a $2.1 billion AI technology park near Beijing.

In 2017, China accounted for 48% of the world’s AI startup funding, compared with 38% for America.

A Chinese Company, Baidu, has 2000 researchers working all over the world.  It now rivals Google as the global leader I AI research.

One over-riding problem is the mind set of Donald Trump, who thinks in time frames of weeks and months, not years and decades.  He looks for simple, immediate solutions that will make his approval ratings better, keep the stock market rising and keep corporate profits high.

And then the piper comes calling.

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