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US Lawmakers seek $32 billion to keep American AI ahead of China

Illustration shows AI Artificial intelligence words, miniature of robot and U.S. flag

By David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -A bipartisan group of senators, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, on Wednesday called on Congress to approve $32 billion in funding for artificial intelligence research to keep the U.S. ahead of China in the powerful technology.

The senators, including Republicans Mike Rounds and Todd Young and Democrat Martin Heinrich, announced the goal as part of a legislative roadmap to address the promises and perils of AI.

If China is “going to invest $50 billion, and we’re going to invest in nothing, they’ll inevitably get ahead of us. So that’s why even these investments are so important,” Schumer said Wednesday.

The roadmap could help the U.S. address mounting worries about China’s advances in AI. Washington fears Beijing could use it to meddle in other countries’ elections, create bioweapons or launch muscular cyberattacks.

U.S. officials flagged concerns over China’s “misuse” of artificial intelligence in their first formal bilateral talks on the issue this week. Reuters reported this month that President Joe Biden’s administration is poised to open a new front in its effort to safeguard U.S. AI from China and Russia.

“This is a time in which the dollars related to this particular investment will pay dividends to the taxpayers of this country long term,” Rounds said. “China now spends probably about 10 times more than we do on AI development. They are in a hurry.”

The funding would cover non-defense uses of AI, the lawmakers said. Senators are still considering how much Congress should dedicate to defense-related AI, “but it’s going to be a very large number,” Schumer added.

Senators called for Congress to fund cross-government AI research and development including an all-of-government “AI-ready data” initiative and government AI testing and evaluation infrastructure.

They also called for more money for the Commerce Department’s export control division, which has barred the export of some advanced AI chips and tools to make them to China.

The Biden administration and lawmakers have sought AI legislation but made little headway. The administration is separately moving to adopt rules.

Schumer said he hoped Congress would pass some legislation by year-end.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Cynthia Osterman)

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