Bipartisan Senators Release Plan for AI, Call for More Funding

Senators Chuck Schumer, Todd Young, and a bipartisan group of their colleagues have unveiled a plan for the US to lead the world in artificial intelligence (AI). The 20-page document titled "Driving U.S. Innovation in Artificial Intelligence" calls for ambitious federal investments in AI research and development, workforce development, and infrastructure. The senators emphasized the importance of American leadership in AI, citing its potential to transform various industries and bolster national security.

The plan includes a proposal to invest $20 billion in a collaborative research initiative bringing together the Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation, and a newly established AI Research Corporation. This initiative would be funded through a "digitally-enabled dollar" tax on corporations that earn more than $1 billion in profits annually from their digital offerings. The senators argued that these corporations have thrived during the pandemic and can afford to contribute to the funding of this initiative.

The proposed tax mirrors the bipartisan "Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Balanced Budget Act" framework, which was established in 1985 to reduce federal budget deficits. Specifically, it imposed automatic across-the-board spending cuts if the Congress did not enact alternative deficit-reduction measures. The tax is set to expire after six years, with the goal of fostering innovation and growth in the AI sector while ensuring American firms pay less in taxes relative to other countries.

The proposal also calls for a dedicated funding stream for AI research and development, workforce development, and infrastructure through the Department of Commerce and other agencies. It further emphasizes the need for an AI talent development program, with a focus on underrepresented communities, to address the anticipated demand for a AI-literate workforce. Moreover, the plan highlights the importance of international cooperation in AI, including partnerships with our allies.

When announcing the plan, Senator Schumer emphasized that the US must lead the AI revolution or risk being left behind. "The rest of the world isn't standing still," he said. "Other countries, including China, are aggressively investing in these technologies so that they can out-innovate and out-compete the United States." He believes that the initiatives presented in the plan will help ensure US leadership in emerging technologies and assert American values and interests around the globe.

The unveiling of this plan comes amidst concerns about China's rapid advancements in AI and technological innovation, which has sparked worries about the nation's increasing global influence. It also follows several months of congressional inquiries into the consequences of AI and the potential need for regulation. Despite these concerns, the plan itself does not outline any specific regulations for the technology's risks, though it does emphasize the need for AI deployment that is "responsible, ethical, and aligned with American values."

The lack of specific regulatory proposals in the plan has garnered some criticism. Sean Berg, a former technology and intelligence policy advisor to Senator Marco Rubio, suggests that the strategic importance of AI in the future of both commerce and warfare will necessitate more explicit regulation considerations. He argues that if the US intends to compete with China, it needs a comprehensive plan to address algorithmic accountability, privacy, and intellectual property rights.

Berg emphasizes that without clear regulations, the US risks jeopardizing the potential economic benefits and societal harms of AI. He further notes that democracies thrive when they create rules that enforce transparency, accountability, and fairness. Thus, without these tenets in the development and use of AI, the US could cede its position as a global leader.

The plan is slated to serve as a blueprint for congressional action on AI. However, whether the proposed funding initiatives will survive in the upcoming budget negotiations remains uncertain. Despite potential challenges, the senators expressed their determination to advance the plan through bipartisan cooperation.

Senator Young, who led the group, believes the US has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the trajectory of AI and cement its place as a global leader. He asserts that this opportunity requires their colleagues to rally behind and prioritize AI innovation to foster American competitiveness, national security, and job growth.

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