• Corinne Atton

The NSCAI Identifies Eight Emerging Technologies Requiring Significant U.S. Government Investment

In this second of three short summaries of the recent United States National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence ("NSCAI") Report, we identify and briefly discuss the eight “key emerging technologies" it identifies as requiring significant, immediate investment and support from the U.S. government.

The NSCAI urges the White House to identify “specific subcomponents" of each of these technologies that are the "most important” and to identify “key choke points where competitors could be blocked with minimal impact on U.S. industry.” This will send a clear message to Congress as to how and where to prioritize investment, and will send “a powerful demand signal to industry.”

· Artificial Intelligence ("AI") – the majority of the Report is devoted to AI, and we have summarized some of the key pros and cons of this technology here. The NSCAI sees AI at the center of the "constellation" of technologies identified below, "enabling some and enabled by others."

· Biotechnology – enormous steps forward have been made in biotechnology and biology in recent years, assisted by AI. Examples include the ability to determine the 3D shape of a protein from its amino-acid sequence, and advances in medical imagery. Another game changer is DNA-editing using CRISPR. The NSCAI notes that “AI will be essential to fully understanding how genetic code interacts with biological processes,” and “advances in synthetic biology and genetic editing will give researchers the ability to manipulate this code to perform specific functions.” This will lead to “transformational breakthroughs in biology,” and will “cause the biotechnology sector to become a major driver of overall U.S. economic competitiveness.”

· Quantum Computing – the NSCAI identifies leadership in next-generation computer hardware as "essential to preserving long-term U.S. advantages in strategic technologies like AI.” Quantum computers have the potential to outperform existing classical counterparts on problems relating to machine learning and optimizing, simulation of physical systems, and the collection and transfer of sensitive information. The NSCAI urges significant U.S. investment “in the R&D of materials and components for quantum computers, open-source software tools, and hybrid quantum-classical algorithms.”

· Semiconductors and Advanced Hardware – U.S. leadership in microelectronics is identified as “critical to overall U.S. leadership” in AI. “Hardware is a foundational element of the AI stack alongside data, algorithms, and talent.” Future AI developments will be driven by specialized hardware, “novel packaging techniques such as heterogeneous integration and 3D stacking,” and new types of devices. To incentivize innovation in these technologies, the NSCAI recommends “a 40% refundable tax credit for domestic fabrication investments” by U.S. companies, and the commitment of “$12 billion over the next five years for microelectronics research, development, and infrastructure.”

· Autonomy and Robotics – Autonomous systems have enormous potential, from expert advisory systems and self-driving vehicles to manufacturing. An essential part of autonomous systems is the design and production of hardware and software for advanced robotics. The NSCAI urges the U.S. to position itself as a leading producer and adopter of robotics, and encourages the early adoption of automation, and the creation of markets for autonomous systems in areas already ripe for them, such as mail sorting. This will “yield data and experience relevant for achieving scale and addressing adjacent markets.”

· 5G and Advanced Networking – 5G networks are identified as “the connective tissue between AI platforms,” and “access to trusted and robust 5G networks” is critical. The NSCAI urges Congress and the White House to support U.S. leadership in 5G, and to ramp up its deployment nationwide.

· Advanced Manufacturing – The ability to manufacture high-tech products domestically is also identified as “critical” to U.S. national security and to economic productivity, “both to maintain access to finished goods and as a driver of innovation.” The NSCAI urges the U.S. to “strive for self-reliance,” especially in industries that are essential to crisis response.

· Energy Technology and Systems – Finally, reliable access to inexpensive sources of energy is essential. As the cost of renewable energy continues to fall, the NSCAI urges Congress and the White House to commit to developing and deploying the next generation of energy storage devices, including battery packs for electric vehicles. Energy management must also be transformed by smart infrastructure that can effectively respond to surges in energy demand and to emergencies.

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