Skip to main content

The White House unveiled a hands-off regulatory approach to foster the development of artificial intelligence at a gathering of more than 40 companies in Washington Thursday.

A top White House technology adviser, Michael Kratsios, told representatives of companies including Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Boeing Co. that they’ll have the greatest possible latitude to develop AI, according to a copy of his remarks that was provided to Bloomberg.

“We didn’t cut the lines before Alexander Graham Bell made the first telephone call,” Kratsios said in his prepared remarks. “We didn’t regulate flight before the Wright Brothers took off at Kitty Hawk.”

The Trump administration’s free-market approach to AI comes as the technology sector is facing increasing calls for regulation from lawmakers and consumer groups in addition to concerns specific to AI development that include issues around bias in data use and fierce competition with China.

In a bid to overtake the U.S., the Chinese government has made a 10-fold increase in AI output a national priority for coming years, and many local companies are deploying machine-learning systems to update banking services, identify faces in crowds and control drones.

“Erecting barriers to innovation does not stop the future,” Kratsios said. “It makes the future move overseas.”

While the Obama administration also warned against a rush to add regulations on AI, it had called for assurances that AI “systems will operate safely and securely, in a controlled, well-defined, and well-understood manner.”

The White House convened more than 100 business leaders -- in sectors ranging from energy and manufacturing to health care, technology and financial services -- along with senior government officials and experts for a summit to address issues including supporting national research and development, helping the American workforce to take advantage of AI and removing barriers to AI innovation in the U.S.

Intel Corp. Chief Executive Officer Brian Krzanich, who is attending the meeting, called for a national AI strategy that would prioritize “government funding of R&D to augment the great work being done by industry, and the availability of government data for innovators to use in developing artificial intelligence capabilities,” in a statement Thursday.

“Privacy, cybersecurity, ethics, and potential employment impact are all worthy of careful analysis,” he added.

Still, many in the industry believe both regulation and legislation regarding AI are still years away.