Researchers previously discouraged by President Donald Trump’s artificial intelligence laws and policies, may smile again now about the future of their AI research now that Joe Biden has won the majority states and may be elected President.
A point of vexation about Trump’s AI policy is the low amount of funding allocated for non-military AI-related research. In February, a statement released by the White House stated that non-defence AI investment would be increased to $2 billion by the year 2022, which was met with disapproval and disappointment by analysts who regarded that sum as meagre considering the enormous amount of money required to produce state-of-the-art AI research.
While the Biden administration has not specified its plans for research regarding AI, the campaign of the Democrats suggests that they consider scientific research and development very essential to the nation. Biden’s proposal is to increase the federal research and development funding to $300 billion during his administration. Meanwhile, Trump’s 2021 budget has $142.2 billion stipulated for federal R&D.
The Biden campaign stated that “declines in federal R&D spending have contributed to a hollowing out of the American middle class”, and the investment they are proposing would boost “key technologies” such as “5G, artificial intelligence, advanced materials, biotechnology and clean vehicles”. The Biden campaign also made reference to China as a principal reason why the U.S. needs more funding of technology and science, saying that “China is on track to surpass the U.S. in R&D”.
The Biden campaign stated that “China’s government is actively investing in research and commercialization across these types of important technology areas, in an effort to overtake American technological primacy and dominate future industries”.
Researchers and companies will have to be patient a little while longer to see if the Biden administration can pull off their proposed funding for AI research. As a result of the trending issues like COVID-19, economical regression and systemic raciRsm, little attention was paid to AI during the intense political debates. However, previous initiatives and statements made gives us a glimpse of their plans for AI and other related technologies such as facial recognition.
Previously, Kamala Harris, the Vice President-elect, has accentuated the likely problems of utilizing AI in the criminal justice system. Activists and researchers were concerned that the facial recognition software worked better on white males, than on women and people of colour. They were also concerned about its potential abuse by the Police departments, especially those with a history of racism.
In December last year, Kamala Harris along with other lawmakers such as Sen. Ed Markey and Sen. Cory Booker called the attention of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to re-evaluate policies regarding the use of facial recognition software in federally assisted housing.
Harris and co. were disturbed that “the expansion of facial recognition technology in federally assisted housing properties poses risks to marginalized communities, by opening the door to unchecked government surveillance that could threaten civil rights”.
It is important to note, however that Harris has been criticized by activists for her strict approach to crime during her tenure as a prosecutor, which is claimed to have resulted in an alarming rate of incarceration of Black people.
Going by her statements and actions so far, there is a possibility that the Biden administration may impose stricter bans on federal use of facial recognition. Regarding their plans for the corporate use of facial recognition, we shall see it in time.
By Marvellous Iwendi.