(Bloomberg) — Officials from more than 40 companies including Alphabet Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Boeing Co. and CVS Health Corp. are scheduled to attend a meeting Thursday at the White House to discuss artificial intelligence, amid rising concerns about jobs and the influence of China.
More than 100 business leaders — in sectors ranging from energy and manufacturing to health care, technology and financial services — senior government officials and experts will convene in Washington for a summit to address issues around AI including supporting national research and development, helping the American workforce to take advantage of AI and removing barriers to AI innovation in the U.S.
The effort to tackle artificial intelligence arrives at a time when the American technology industry is already confronting threats of regulation in general as well as specific AI concerns over job losses, the possibility of bias in AI and fierce competition with China in the field. The Chinese government has made AI a national priority and many local companies are deploying machine-learning systems to update banking services, identify faces in crowds and control drones.
The U.S. wants to make sure it’s not giving up any home-field advantage.
“As the world leader in the development of AI, the United States plays a unique role in driving the adoption of AI by industry and the broader public,” a draft White House agenda for the event says. Attendees will discuss “policies to fully realize the promise of AI for the American people,” according to a White House agenda on the meeting.
Other companies sending representatives include Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Mastercard Inc., Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Pfizer Inc., Ford Motor Inc. and Walmart Inc. Intel Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich and CVS CEO Larry Merlo are also slated to attend.
Still, many in the industry believe both regulation and legislation of AI are years away.
In the foreword to a book on AI that Microsoft published this year, the company’s president, Brad Smith, and executive vice president for artificial intelligence and research, Harry Shum, say that within 20 years, the U.S. will need laws to “grapple with the issues that arise when criminal enterprises and others use AI in ways that are objectionable and even harmful.”
“So, while we can’t afford to stifle AI technology by adopting laws before we understand the issues that lie ahead of us, neither can we make the mistake of doing nothing now and waiting for two decades before getting started,” they write.
In addition to domestic considerations, China’s President, Xi Jinping, has set out an ambitious plan to dominate in AI by 2030, overtaking the U.S. The plan would see gross output from China’s AI industry increase 10-fold within the next three years, to 150 billion renminbi ($24 billion), and to 1 trillion renminbi by 2030.
William Carter, the deputy director of the technology policy program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies think tank, said that the White House’s focus on national research and development originates in “concerns about China.”
“It’s a priority partially because of all the money China is throwing at AI,” according to Carter, who said he had discussed AI in recent weeks with the White House office hosting the conference. “DOD wants to adopt a lot more AI, and they will need to have a better foothold in the private sector.”
The administration has also faced criticism from some world economic leaders that its policies on issues like immigration could endanger U.S. dominance in the sciences.
The meeting represents an important step toward building collaboration between government and industry in the realm of artificial intelligence, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group that includes several of the companies attending the meeting.
“The tech sector is committed to ensuring that all Americans reap the benefits of this transformative technology, which has the potential to save lives, improve how we harvest food, transform education and more,” Garfield said in a statement. “In order to maintain America’s leadership on AI, the administration should continue to invest in research and development, and advance programs that equip the workforce with skills of the future.”
In October, the group released a broad set of principles on how public policy around artificial intelligence should be developed, a year after Google, Apple, IBM, Facebook, Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft formed the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to conduct research and make recommendations that would improve the safety, transparency, equity and effectiveness of artificial intelligence.