Week 1 Global Competition over Leadership in AI

We discussed national competitiveness in R&D in our first lecture, which reminded me of a recent article in the Economist (and associated leader), which raises the question of whether Europe can claim a place in global leadership in Artificial Intelligence, which is currently dominated by the United States and China.   Several countries have independently sought to take leadership just over the past year including France, Germany, and the UK as well as efforts by the European Commission to secure a uniquely European approach.

Of course, the EU is not the only contender.  Japan, which has a longstanding leadership role in robotics and Israel have also been mentioned as potential leaders, as are Korea, Canada, Singapore, even the UAE.  There have even been efforts to review the different national AI strategies.  Moreover, as discussed in class, there are different metrics for what constitutes leadership.  Still, a recent list of the 100 most promising AI startups was overwhelmingly dominated by the US (76 of the 100 firms).

Apart from competition from Europe, there are also questions about the relative strengths of the existing leaders in the US and China.   Kai-Fu Lee offers an interesting op-ed piece in the New York Times about the benefits of replication and discusses China’s existing advantages and where the United States can learn.

This leads to several fundamental questions:

  • What measures can a country take in seeking to become a global leader in a new and emerging field?
  • Why might a country attempt to be a leader on AI (or nanotech or energy storage or synthetic biology)?
  • What are the benefits of obtaining (or retaining) leadership in a field such as AI?
  • Are there any benefits from being a ‘follower’ rather than a ‘leader’?
  • From the perspective of a start-up firm working on AI, what are the advantages and disadvantages of being in an environment where there many other leading firms?

Feel free to adopt the perspective of your own country (or of one you are interested) and address the current state of AI and which actors have contributed most to the current position

To reiterate, the goal is a short contribution, so don’t feel the need to answer all of these questions!