The White House today announced the launch of its National Bureau of AI Initiative, which marks President Trump’s final manipulation of the country’s gutted Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
According to an OSTP press release:
The office is tasked with overseeing and implementing the United States’ national AI strategy and acts as the central hub for federal coordination and collaboration in AI research and policy across government, as well as with the private sector, academia, and other stakeholders serve.
Background: During the Trump presidency, the OSTP was reduced from a record 135 employees under President Barack Obama to just 35. While operating under a skeleton crew itself, the office still managed to budget, guide, and define legislation to implement the National AI Initiative Office.
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In fact, this simply codifies what the White House has been doing since day one of the Trump presidency, which is to send lucrative contracts to Trump-friendly AI providers like Peter Thiel-backed Palantir or the controversial face recognition company Clearview AI.
This is because Trump essentially made himself the country’s official AI advisor in 2018. As I wrote then:
By default, the person who voted POTUS is the co-chair of the [National Science and Technology Council] NSTC. Without a director or co-chair, Trump officially consults. This gives him unilateral control over the entire committee with the option to move the verdict to junior members.
Take quickly: The bureau’s guidelines are toothless in that they require the organization to continue adopting ethical guidelines, but not make specific suggestions about the country’s AI practices. In other words, the office is under orders to pursue ethical AI, but has no remedy to guide the U.S. government’s ethical use of AI.
Although details of the exact machinations of the National AI Initiative Office are little known, it stands to reason that legislation over its existence in the final days of the Trump presidency will make it difficult for Joe Biden’s future administration to get the country out of its current affairs the private sector.
We asked the White House and OSTP for comment, but were referred to today’s press release.
Published on January 12, 2021 – 17:42 UTC