The race for global dominance in artificial intelligence (AI) is well and truly underway. Having mastered the first phase of AI development, countries like the US and China are going head to head to become leaders in advanced artificial intelligence.
The US is at the forefront of the current AI boom, and its intentions are clear. At the start of 2019 , President Donald Trump signed an executive order creating the “American AIInitiative,” which orders funds, programs and data to be directed towards research and commercialisation of AI. A national strategy like this is motivated by a desire to spur the advancement of this technology, enhance public services, and ultimately give the US a competitive advantage over its international competitors.
China, meanwhile, is firmly on its tail. The country is investing heavily in AI to capitalise on advances in machine learning (ML) amongst other forms. The 2019 AI Index Report found that investment into AI companies in China rose from just $6.4 million in 2009 to $14.3 billion in 2018. This surge in investment reveals just how committed China is to developing the next wave of intelligent technologies.
Where does Europe fit in?
Europe finds itself in an interesting position in the current AI ‘arms race’. Although it is a strong contender, the EU is burdened by excessive red tape; so much so, it poses a risk to the future creation and deployment of innovative new toolsets.
The EU is regulating innovation on a bloc-wide basis – most recently, its sights have been set on introducing new guidelines surrounding AI development. A set of strict rules and safeguards for the development and use of AI were recently proposed, ushering in a new set of standards to be followed.
While a collaborative approach like this can be helpful, it is also dangerous to impose too many limits as it risks stifling true innovation. Indeed, excessive bureaucracy will introduce unnecessary hurdles for researchers and developers who must comply with ever-changing obligations.
The drive of innovative AI companies also cannot be supported without solid levels of investment. According to McKinsey, Europe is home to approximately 25% of the world’s AI startups, in line with its size in the world economy; that said, its early-stage investment in AI lags behind that of the US and China.
What does this mean for long-term development?
In the battle for AI supremacy, there will be winners and losers. Who comes out on top will be determined not only by home-grown technological expertise, but also by investment and the ability to innovate. We believe it is well within Europe’s grasp to catch up to its competitors and scale up the development of new technologies. Restrictions must be curbed however, and governments, businesses and organisations must work together to pave an effective way forward.
After all, AI is invaluable for national economies. McKinsey estimates that if Europe “develops and diffuses AI according to its current assets and digital position in the world”, it could add some €2.7 trillion (or 20%) to its combined economic output by 2030. If it were to bolster its efforts and catch up with the US AI frontier, a total of €3.6 trillion could be added to its collective GDP by 2030.
Money aside, however, intelligent applications of technology have the power to shape our society. In doing so, they will determine how well public services, governments and businesses function – with the benefits being felt by wider society as a result.Healthcare, for instance, is a topical focal point; those countries who invest heavily in R&D now will advance patient care and improve national health standards.
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