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27 October 20234 minute read

AI experts, Schumer call for “robust, sustained federal investment” in artificial intelligence

Second AI Insight Forum brings technologists and advocates to Capitol

Stating that “American leadership on AI can’t be done on the cheap,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put forth a suggested price tag for US federal investment in “transformative and sustainable innovation in AI” at $32 billion, and referred to this proposed amount as a floor. 

Schumer cited the figure at the conclusion of the Second AI Insight Forum on October 24, the latest in a series of meetings intended to give senators a chance to interact with tech experts and other stakeholders.

The $32 billion figure comes from a 2021 report issued by the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), a congressionally appointed body chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt. The report expressed concern that “the government is not organizing or investing to win the technology competition against a committed competitor.” It warned that the necessary research and infrastructure strategy “will be expensive and require a significant change in mindset.”

Per its final report, the NSCAI found that, in 2018, US federally funded R&D as a percentage of GDP was 0.7 percent, down from its peak of around 2 percent during the Cold War.  The NSCAI recommended spending at least 1 percent of GDP on R&D.

As with the first AI Insight Forum, held on September 13, Schumer co-hosted the event on Tuesday with three of his colleagues who are key players in an emerging bipartisan comprehensive legislative framework, Senators Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and Todd Young (R-IN).

The panelists at this October 24 session included tech CEOs, venture capitalists, academics, and civil society leaders. The meeting, including Q&As with senators, was behind closed doors, but each of the 20 experts submitted statements for the public record.                                                                           

“Almost all of the experts in today’s Forum called for robust, sustained federal investment in private and public sectors to achieve our goals of American-led transformative and sustainable innovation in AI,” Schumer said after the Forum.

“We need to strike a balance between transformational and sustainable innovation,” he continued. “Finding this balance will be key to our success.”

Going forward

In June, Senator Schumer announced the Senate would convene an upcoming series of nine “AI Insight Forums” to provide lawmakers an opportunity to hear from and interact with top experts in the field of AI, supplementing the process of congressional hearings and other traditional legislative procedures.  Additional forums are planned for November and December, including one on Workforce planned for November 1.  The topics for the forums announced in June include the following:

  • AI innovation (October 24)
  • Workforce (November 1)
  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • Use-cases and risk management
  • National security
  • Guarding against doomsday scenarios
  • AI’s role in our social world
  • Transparency, explainability, and alignment
  • Privacy and liability

At a time of growing congressional and public concern over the implications of AI regarding job losses, potential impacts on privacy, the spread of online misinformation, competition with China, and other countries that are developing their own AI products and regulatory regimes, we are closely following these developments. 

DLA Piper’s AI Practice has over 100 attorneys, data scientists, coders, and policymakers focused on AI worldwide. To learn more about this evolving policy landscape and its implications for your business, please contact any of the authors.