We should incentivize the emergence of a competitive alternative to Huawei, the Chinese company that leads in 5G network technology, by expanding the bandwidth the government makes available to private companies.
We need unprecedented partnerships between government and industry. For example, a partnership should expand affordable access to cloud computing for university researchers and students. A new proposal from Stanford for a “National Research Cloud” offers a vision for this.
We should accelerate discovery by creating more flexible ways to fund the most promising researchers for multiple years at a time. This opens longer-term paths to scientific discovery.
We should undertake major efforts to train up-and-coming scientists and engineers, and attract more global technology experts to the United States. A majority of computer scientists with graduate degrees working in America were born abroad, as were most current graduate students studying computer science in U.S. universities. They are a source of national strength. A vast majority want to stay and contribute to American innovation. We must make it easier for them to do so. There is no need to wait for comprehensive immigration reform: We can change the immigration process for highly skilled people now to reduce the red tape, backlogs and uncertainty that threaten to drive tech talent to other countries — including to our strategic competitors.
Finally, we must address the concerns Americans rightly have about privacy, security, algorithmic bias, technical standards and the potential impact new technologies will have on the work force. If the American public does not trust the benefits of new technologies, those doubts will hold us back. Despite earnest efforts, the tech community has not demonstrated convincingly that it can regulate itself. The wide-ranging societal impact of A.I. in particular warrants government involvement.
To be sure, while we are competing with the Chinese, we should also work with them. There are many areas where cooperation can help everyone — for example in A.I.-based approaches to climate challenges, space exploration, disaster relief and pandemics.
These recommendations are informed by recent experiences in industry and public service, but they are inspired by the conviction instilled when I was a much younger man that a wise federal strategy can spur innovation, drive private enterprise and renew American leadership.
Ultimately, the Chinese are competing to become the world’s leading innovators, and the United States is not playing to win. A bold, bipartisan initiative can extend our country’s technology advantage beyond what many experts predict. Success matters for more than our companies’ bottom line and our military’s battlefield edge. We must show that these new technologies can advance individual liberty and strengthen free societies. For the American model to win, the American government must lead.
Eric Schmidt is the founder of Schmidt Futures and chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the Defense Innovation Board. He is the former chairman and C.E.O. of Google.
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