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Backfire

U.S. Plan to Restrict AI Exports Could Backfire

It could deter researchers from working in the U.S.

Kristin HouserJanuary 2nd 2019

The U.S. of A.I.

Right now, the position of world leader in artificial intelligence is up for grabs — but soon, it could be out of the United States’s reach.

At least, that’s a growing concern in Silicon Valley, the nation’s hub for all things tech, according to a New York Times story published on Tuesday.

These industry insiders worry that proposed rules limiting or even outright banning the export of American AI services and technologies will prevent the nation from dominating the global AI industry. And that wouldn’t just hurt the U.S. economy — it could also jeopardize the nation’s security.

Sharing Is Scaring

On November 19, the U.S. Department of Commerce published a proposal listing various types of AI software that it thinks could benefit from export restrictions. These restrictions could be anything from the need for a company to obtain a license before selling the tech to other countries to an outright ban on sales to certain nations.

According to the proposal, the purpose of the restrictions would be to bolster the U.S.’s national security — after all, AI has many potential military uses, so why would the U.S. want to put that technology in the hands of nations such as China or North Korea?

Pointless and Harmful

Silicon Valley opposes these AI export restrictions for a few reasons, according to the NYT’s story.

Perhaps most obviously, they could hurt American companies and help foreign ones. By limiting where companies such as Amazon and Google could sell their AI services, the restrictions would damage those companies’ bottom lines. They’ll also leave open a market gap that other nations, such as China, could fill.

The restrictions might not actually prevent other nations from getting the fundamental research at the core of the latest technologies, either — in computer science and AI, experts share much of their work for free via online repositories such as arXiv.org.

Opposite Effect

Finally, Silicon Valley has been the dominant force in technology over the past couple of decades partially because many of the brightest minds from across the globe want to work there.

If the U.S. moves forward with its proposed AI export restrictions, it might actually deter experts from choosing to work in America. “It might be easier for people to just do this stuff in Europe,” international trade lawyer Jason Waite told the NYT.

Given that “this stuff” would likely also include technologies designed to improve national security, it’s easy to see how the nation’s attempt to keep its citizen’s safe through AI export restrictions might actually do the opposite.

READ MORE: Curbs on A.I. Exports? Silicon Valley Fears Losing Its Edge [The New York Times]

More on AI: U.S. Military Declares Mandate on AI: “We Want to Be the Threat”

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