One of the hottest trends in technology right now is artificial intelligence. It's not a new tech, by any means, but it's being applied to numerous different product and service segments, everything from self-driving cars and healthcare, to smartphones and graphics cards. As a matter of national security, US officials may decide to place certain restrictions in AI exports.
The US Commerce Department included AI in a list of technologies that could be saddled with new export rules, if approved. As an added wrinkle, the US and China are engaged in a trade war that could potentially see these rules and where they are implemented as bargaining chips.
Security officials may be on board with the idea, but technology experts warn that export rules on AI could actually spur AI advancements in other nations, and ultimately hurt the US.
"The number of cases where exports can be sufficiently controlled are very, very, very small, and the chance of making an error is quite large," Jack Clark, head of policy at OpenAI, told The New York Times. "If this goes wrong, it could do real damage to the AI community."
Tech experts are hoping that any export rules that are put in place end up being soft. Otherwise, engineers and companies may opt to take their talents to other countries.
It's not clear what exactly the US government would be looking to restrict. We suspect it wouldn't have much effect on everyday consumer items, like smart speakers and that sort of thing. However, trying to distinguish between consumer products and military technologies presents another challenge that could make new export rules confusing and difficult to enforce.
"Trying to draw a line between what is military and what is commercial is exceedingly difficult," R. David Edelman, a technology policy researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told NYT. "It may be impossible."
On top of it all, there is a lot of AI tech that is developed on prior research, much of which is made freely available on sites like Arxiv.org. Nevertheless, depending on the rules, they could be effective in blocking certain computer chips used in AI from shipping to countries like China and Russia.