It's almost been a year since the White House held its last big tech summit. This week, it will reportedly host representatives from 38 of the biggest companies in the US to discuss the future of artificial intelligence and how the US government can help avoid disaster.
Tim Cook, Donald Trump and Satya Nadella attend White House Tech Summit in June 2017. Photo: AP
The anti-science Trump administration has been slow to address many of the issues that technology poses in our current time and the complex problems it promises for the future. According to The Washington Post, it's slowly realising that it doesn't have the option to turn a blind eye to tech and it wants to get serious about what the US government needs to do to address the coming AI revolution.
From the report:
The Trump administration intends to ask academics, government officials and AI developers about ways to adapt regulations to advance AI in such fields as agriculture, health care and transportation, according to a draft schedule of the event. And they're set to discuss the US government's power to fund cutting-edge research into such technologies as machine learning.
Among those expected to be in the room for that private gathering Thursday will be representatives from tech giants like Microsoft, Nvidia and Oracle, as well as other businesses like Ford, Land O'Lakes, Mastercard, Pfizer and United Airlines, according to the White House. Slated to represent Facebook is Jerome Pesenti, its vice president of AI, the company confirmed. Amazon plans to send Rohit Prasad, the head scientist for its voice-assistant Alexa. Intel chief executive Brian Krzanich is also expected to attend.
The US administration has done its best to purge scientific and technical expertise from the EPA, the White House, NASA and other agencies. And just one year ago, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a reporter that job automation wasn't even on his radar and he believes its a problem that's "50 to 100" years away.
But that flippancy can't hold. The US government suddenly seems quite alarmed by China's tech advances and it has been ramping up a cold war with companies it believes have Chinese interests at heart. At the same time, job automation poses a threat to the economy - one of the few ongoing talking points that Trump points to as a success for his team.
This week's summit is being framed as a first step in getting everyone on the same page about what has to be done for investment and innovation to keep pace with America's rivals and anticipate the consequences of an AI-driven world. Any talk of universal basic income or free university tuition seems unlikely, but the Post says discussions about increased funding and potential regulatory barriers are likely on the table.
Companies such as Facebook and Amazon may be sending their best and their brightest, but it doesn't seem as though the CEOs will be putting themselves through the humiliation of being in Trump's vicinity this time around. We're not even sure if Trump will be there. The White House hasn't released a statement on the summit yet, and Gizmodo has requested more information.
Getting a bunch of tech experts in a room with people who could actually affect some sort of change could be the best option. The last big tech summit was reportedly spent buttering up Trump's ego in order to get him to listen to the most basic issues.
There's also no word if Jared Kushner will be there. Kushner was originally the White House's tech guy, but he hasn't been in the public eye lately. What's up with that?