The U.S. may lose its position as a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI) if we do not modernize our intellectual property system and bolster our national security strategy. That emerged as the key theme at the U.S. Chamber’s fifth and final AI Commission field hearing, hosted in Washington, D.C. last week. Experts from civil society, government, academia, and industry fathered to discuss this and other important issues related to the use and regulation of AI.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Suzanne Clark opened the hearing by noting several challenges ahead, such as cooperation between Russia and China to compete against the U.S., intellectual property (IP) theft, and regulation from abroad. With regard to the Commission’s forthcoming policy recommendations, she noted, “You can count on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to do something with this. You can count on us to not just produce a white paper but to really turn it into action, into work.”
Here are six recommendations for how the U.S. can lead on AI:
1. Modernize the intellectual property system
The U.S. intellectual property system is an important tool to ensure technological progress, but it must be modernized when it comes to emerging technologies like AI. Section 101 – the patentable subject matter section of the patent code – has not been re-addressed in Congress since 1793.
“The patent code that [our founders] put in place was fantastic, however they did not anticipate DNA processing, artificial intelligence, cryptography, software code, and all of the modern technologies of the next industrial revolution,” said Andrei Iancu, former Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director at United States Patent and Trademark Office. “So, to say that the patent system, at least from that perspective, needs to modernize is an understatement. It is absolutely crucial, and it is a matter of immediate national security.”
In pursuing the modernization of the IP system, Iancu highlighted two critical questions that must be addressed – 1) Should AI algorithms be patentable? And 2) should an AI algorithm that innovates and creates new things be allowed to hold a patent? These issues must be addressed to enable IP to catch up to AI and the U.S. to maintain AI leadership in the world.
In his testimony, Christian Hannon, a patent attorney currently serving in the Office of Policy and International Affairs at USPTO, noted that the agency has been, “engaging with the innovation community and experts in AI to promote the understanding and reliability of IP rights as they related to AI technologies.”
Maintaining U.S. leadership in emerging technologies is a priority for the USPTO, which recently convened an AI and Emerging Technologies Partnership and published a study on the growth of AI as evidenced through patent data. “To summarize, we cannot sustain innovation around AI without robust and reliable IP rights, which are essential to the prosperity of our innovative nation,” said Hannon. “To grow our economy and stay globally competitive, we must promote invention and patenting more than ever, including in those underserved communities.”
2. Treat IP theft as a national security threat
The theft of American intellectual property is also a critical national security issue. In 2019, China surpassed the United States in international patent filing. In 2020, the country surpassed the U.S. lead again by 17%.
“I think it’s because they’re stealing our intellectual property and doing a copy paste into the patent system,” said Brian Drake, Federal Chief Technology Officer at Accrete AI Government. “We need to treat intellectual property as a national security asset.”
3. Bolster AI as a national security priority
When it comes to the competition on AI, maintaining leadership on the technology is a national security imperative.
“When I think about this space from a national security perspective, I think it is a full spectrum attack on our country,” cautioned Drake. “I’m talking about all the instruments of national power from our adversaries being directed at all of our national security instruments and economic power centers. That means their intelligence apparatuses, that means their direct and indirect funding apparatuses, that means their commercial military integration activities. All of those are being directed toward artificial intelligence. And make no mistake, it is about winning the future war.”
“The implications for our national security when China or any other authoritarian model sets the standards and rules for emerging technologies are rather severe,” said Yll Bajraktari, CEO of the Special Competitive Studies Project and a member of the National AI Advisory Committee (NAIAC). “Tech leadership means setting the rules for how they’re used, controlling the infrastructure for their use, building the industries of the future, and building the best militaries to protect our societies.”
“The first mover advantage in technology is enormous,” Bajraktari continued. “It is important for our country to be in the lead of China because this is a values competition. We want these technologies to be developed according to our norms and ethics, which is the antithesis of how China is using it against their citizens, through surveillance, oppression of their minority groups.”
4. Elevate the U.S.’s strategic advantage in AI
American values are both an effective strategy and competitive advantage when it comes to AI.
“I would argue that it’s not that we need to be a leader, it’s that we need to maintain our leadership because our brand is trust,” said Miriam Vogel, President and CEO of EqualAI and Chair of NAIAC. “I think what we have that some of our competitors don’t is faith that our AI does what it says it’s going to do, and that it’s effective, and it’s inclusive.”
Compared to other countries where the focus is purely on data retention, the U.S. also has a focus on being inclusive, which Vogel views as a competitive advantage. “The more people who are included in the framework of our AI creation, the more people who can benefit from our AI,” she said.
“In the face of digital authoritarianism, the United States needs to present a democratic model of responsible use of AI for national security,” stressed Bajraktari. “Public trust will hinge on justified assurance that our government use of AI will respect privacy, civil liberties, and civil rights.”
5. Ensure that AI is effective for decision making
Without adequate forethought and presentation, machine learning results may not be trusted or used effectively in the military.
“If it’s not actionable, if it’s not relevant, if it’s not timely, and if it doesn’t have contextual information…[analysts] won’t report on it,” said Benjamin Harvey, Founder and CEO of AI Squared. “That means that there are people out there right in the field that aren’t getting the intel that they need because of the inability of an organization to provide it in a way that they feel they have trust right in what they’re reporting on.”
This discrepancy has impacted Harvey personally. During the hearing, he spoke of how his brothers were affected both mentally and physically by their deployments. “All I could think about was when I was at NSA, I was the data science chief, and I couldn’t get the results off from our data sciences into the applications fast enough. And all I could imagine is if we would have been able to do that, we would have been able to prevent some of the injuries and save lives. Not only to my brothers, but to the other military war fighters that were in hostile territories.”
6. Win the competition for talent
Maintaining AI leadership in the long-term means winning the competition for talent around the globe and cultivating new talent at home.
“The bottom line is our national security depends on our ability to attract nurture and retain technical talent, and without this talent pools of foundation, everything else is kind of irrelevant,” said Colin Carroll, Director at Applied Intuition. “If we enact nativist immigration policies or even the status quo that we have now, I really do predict that by the end of the decade the transition of the AI education and research power base to basically China and India [will] be complete. And it’s going to be really, really hard if not impossible to overcome.”
Instead, Carroll stressed that, “We need immigration reform, ideally bipartisan, that prioritizes incentives for foreign talent to attend school, to conduct research, to work here and to become really U.S. citizens.”
To address the talent deficit in government, Bajraktari called for building new digital talent pipelines and expanding existing programs more broadly.
“We recommended creating the National Digital Reserve Corp,” he said. “All the military services have a reserved corp. We talk to a lot of technologists in Silicon Valley. A lot of them want to help our government, but they don’t want to leave their private sector jobs. So, what is a middle way you can create for them? You create a reserve program, where they offer two weeks a year to our government their services, and this will allow you to have high-end access to the best technologies people.”
To explore critical issues around AI and provide independent, durable, and bipartisan recommendations to policymakers, the U.S. Chamber AI Commission held five field hearings in Austin, TX; Cleveland, OH; Palo Alto, CA; London, UK; and Washington, DC. The Commission’s final recommendations will be published in Fall 2022. Get the latest from our website.