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Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

International students outnumber homegrown talent two to one among newly graduated AI experts, driving American leadership in the critical and increasingly crowded field.

Why it matters: Experts worry that U.S. hostility to immigration is choking this vital pipeline, potentially handing an advantage to competitors like China.

The big picture: Bright minds are the primary fuel for AI advances.

  • Experts attribute America's primacy in large part to its ability to attract the world's top talent, train them in top universities, and then employ them in academia or the booming private sector.
  • But as other countries' AI capabilities improve quickly, the balance may be upset.
  • A landmark new report on AI talent argues that "…any short-term increase in other states’ relative attractiveness — even if counteracted after the fact — can have long-term and potentially irreversible consequences."

Driving the news: In the new report, shared first with Axios, Remco Zwetsloot of the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown analyzes the detailed education and work histories of thousands of recent AI graduates in the U.S.

  • Zwetsloot and his co-authors find that 80% of international students stay in the U.S. after graduation, a proportion that's stayed steady for years. But several looming changes threaten this trend.
  • Professional opportunities, immigration rules and personal considerations drive international students' decisions to stay or return after school — and immigration is only getting more restricted.

One particular danger, according to the report, is a rollback of Optional Practical Training, a program that allows graduates to work in the U.S. for three years after finishing school.

What's next: The White House has proposed reallocating the number of visas to accommodate more high-skilled immigrants. But Zwetsloot says that's not enough.

  • "Ultimately, increasing numerical caps will do a lot more for U.S. retention of the best and brightest than tweaking the allocation system for an insufficient number of slots," he says.

Go deeper: A potential AI talent drain

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Biden readies massive shifts in policy for his first days in office.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.
  6. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dave Lawler, author of World
3 hours ago - World

Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.

Mike Allen, author of AM
5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's "overwhelming force" doctrine

President-elect Biden arrives to introduce his science team in Wilmington yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President-elect Biden has ordered up a shock-and-awe campaign for his first days in office to signal, as dramatically as possible, the radical shift coming to America and global affairs, his advisers tell us. 

The plan, Part 1 ... Biden, as detailed in a "First Ten Days" memo from incoming chief of staff Ron Klain, plans to unleash executive orders, federal powers and speeches to shift to a stark, national plan for "100 million shots" in three months.