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Blog Post

With Thiel on Transition Team, Tactical AI has an Ally

By Adam Stone and Tobias Naegele

January 9, 2017

The Obama administration touted its Third Offset strategy to describe Pentagon efforts to harness digital computing technology that gives America a force-multiplying tactical and strategic edge on the future battlefield. One key component is artificial intelligence (AI), which has major implications for everything from unmanned aircraft and driverless vehicles to customer contact systems, cybersecurity and individualized education and training.

While some worry that President-elect Trump will slash research investment and pull back from government-supported technology, the reality is total government investment in unclassified AI research is only about $1.2 billion – less than many individual firms invest in the technology annually. And no technology has more promise to increase human productivity – and therefore economic growth – than AI.

Trump has long had the backing of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel, a notable exception among the tech elite. And Thiel, on Trump’s transition team, supports AI research and safety initiatives, and will be a voice for the technology and its potential economic and government service benefits in the administration.

The president-elect listed AI, along with 3D printing and cyber warfare, as “areas where our technological superiority gives us an edge” in an April policy speech. No other technologies made his list.

Back in October, the National Science and Technology Council’s subcommittee on machine learning and AI issued a report: “Preparing for the future of AI.” It addresses AI policy implications across the spectrum of applications and discusses government’s role in advancing and regulating the technology. In a sense, the document is a guide to next steps for the incoming administration.