It wasn’t so long ago that the United States government was funding scientific research in order to not only remain relevant on the world stage, but to allow itself to have a say in how that future world developed as well.
It may not be as exciting as flying a man to the moon to plant a heavily symbolic flag, but the growing arena of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is surprisingly lacking in governmental involvement. Instead, five American companies are running the show, directing how this potentially world-changing technology will be implemented and applied.
Five Companies are Driving the Future
Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are on track to spend a combined $60 billion this year alone on developing the machine-intelligent future.
By comparison, the US government only invested about $67 billion on all types of nondefense-related scientific research in 2015. According to a paper on the implications of Artificial Intelligence published in the last days of the Obama administration, only $1.1 billion of that federal funding went directly to AI.
This is troubling for many reasons, but most immediately because businesses like Google and the rest are designed to have profit in mind. They make a thing, and it must have a real-life application or else it’s a waste of investment. There’s no guarantee they will look to create a well-rounded AI universe, because they don’t have a need to do so. Instead, what may result is a world that is lop-sided or favors one group of people significantly more than another.
The Future of AI
Because AI is forecasted to become so prevalent, it’s vital that there’s some sort of centralization and checks and balances involved. When government grants go to emerging technologies, it literally gives the job of guiding the tech to fruition to a small body that can ensure that both long- and short-term gains are maintained.
Currently, these tech giants are doing their part by regularly publishing papers on their findings and allowing third-party companies to access some of their developments, but even they are hoping for government involvement and guidance in the near future. Corporations are simply not well-equipped to change the world all alone, and another public-private partnership, like the one that created the Internet, would benefit far more than Amazon shoppers or iPhone users.