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Making sense of AI

White House announces creation of AI and quantum research institutes

White House north lawn in VR.

Image Credit: Oculus

The White House today detailed the establishment of 12 new research institutes focused on AI and quantum information science. Agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have committed to investing tens of millions of dollars in centers intended to serve as nodes for AI and quantum computing study.

Laments over the AI talent shortage in the U.S. have become a familiar refrain. While higher education enrollment in AI-relevant fields like computer science has risen rapidly in recent years, few colleges have been able to meet student demand due to a lack of staffing. In June, the Trump administration imposed a ban on U.S. entry for workers on certain visas — including for high-skilled H-1B visa holders, an estimated 35% of whom have an AI-related degree — through the end of the year. And Trump has toyed with the idea of suspending the Optional Practical Training program, which allows international students to work for up to three years in the U.S. after they graduate.

This week’s announcement might be perceived as an effort to shift attention from immigration toward domestic progress. However, $1 billion falls on the conservative side of the AI investment spectrum. When U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios revealed last September that U.S. government agencies requested nearly $1 billion in nondefense AI research spending for the fiscal year ending in September 2020, representatives from Intel, Nvidia, and IEEE said the U.S. would need to set aside more for AI R&D. Separately, national security think tank Center for a New American Security called for federal spending on high-risk/high-reward AI research to increase to $25 billion by 2025 to avoid “brain drain,” and the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence asserts the government must spend $120 billion within the decade on AI research and education and the national AI ecosystem.

AI institutes