U.S. Facing Threats to AI Tech Leadership

The AI race is inextricably linked with immigration policies and government investment, MIT researchers say.
Matthew HellerJanuary 23, 2020

The U.S. will need to step up investment and reduce immigration barriers if it is to maintain its lead in developing AI and machine learning technologies, according to two MIT researchers.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee noted how the AI race is inextricably linked with immigration policies and government investment.

“The world’s most intelligent, ambitious, and tenacious people in this field want to come to America to build their lives and careers and we put [these] Kafka-esque barriers” in their way, McAfee, a principal research scientist at the MIT Sloan School of Management, told Yahoo Finance.

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Drive Business Strategy and Growth

Learn how NetSuite Financial Management allows you to quickly and easily model what-if scenarios and generate reports.

“If our president is on board, let’s get these people here,” he added.

Also in the running for AI leadership are China and the European Union. “As developments in AI accelerate, some in the U.S. fear that the ability of China’s powerful central government to marshal data and pour resources into the field will push it ahead,” BBC News reported.

“The country has announced billions in funding for start-ups, launched programs to woo researchers from overseas and streamlined its data policies,” it said.

China has set a goal of being the global leader in AI theory and technology by 2030. “Not only does [China] have more power over its own purse-strings than most Western governments, there’s also a culture of businesses supporting the government that allows China to drum up capital in a hurry,” The Next Web said.

Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, said his students are concerned about barriers to immigration.

“Most of our students come from other countries,” he said. “When we attract other smart people, that makes [our smart people] smarter.”