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The U.S. Leads in Artificial Intelligence, but for How Long? Posted on Dec 07 - 2017

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Even as the world’s top artificial-intelligence researchers gathered in Los Angeles this week, many are beginning to wonder just how much longer the U.S. will remain the epicenter of AI.

The Neural Information Processing System (NIPS) conference in Long Beach is the number one place for presenting breakthroughs in AI. But U.S. government policies threaten to put a dampener on the recent boom in the field.

The U.S. Congress’s tax plan is the latest challenge, threatening to raise costs for graduate students significantly. This follows reduced funding for fields including AI and tightening of rules on immigration for international researchers.

“Through decades of public and private investment, the U.S. currently leads in AI basic research,” says Andrew Ng, a leading figure in the field who held an academic post at Stanford before leading research efforts at Google in the U.S. and Baidu in China. “Ill-advised policies can quickly squander this lead.”

The implications of the tax plan in particular will be hot topics at NIPS, an event where companies and schools woo top talent. For many years, the event was a small gathering of researchers toiling away on neural networks, a subfield of AI that had seen limited success and had largely fallen out of fashion. Around 2012, however, dramatic progress breathed new life into that area.

Reflecting the wider AI boom, over the past few years the NIPS conference has grown from a small gathering of a few hundred academics to a sprawling event with thousands of attendees, big-name corporate recruiters, and lavish parties.

The tax bill, which is currently working its way through Congress, proposes requiring graduate students to pay taxes on their tuition, which is normally waived by academic institutions. For many, this would suddenly mean a tax bill of around $10,000, making it much harder for U.S. universities and professors to attract graduate students. The bill passed by the Senate on Saturday did not include this provision, but it could still find its way into the final version. View More

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