Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

For over a year, China has moved to lead the creation of the first global norms for AI. Now, the U.S. is developing its own AI standards, as the two rivals compete to shape a technology that could define the future balance of authoritarian and democratic power.

What's happening: China's ambitions are a dimension of its all-hands push to lead the world in frontier technologies — especially AI — by the end of the next decade. Having been relegated to the sidelines in the last big cycle of standard-setting at the birth of the internet, Beijing is laser-focused on dominating this new round.

As AI moves increasingly into actual commercial use, the leading nations are positioning themselves to standardize the field to their own advantage. This includes everything from minute technical standards to procedures for removing bias from algorithms.

Countries and companies have a lot to gain from leaving a mark on the process.

  • For one, firms whose technology is deemed part of a global standard can make big money in royalties — in the way Qualcomm, for example, profits from its wireless technology patents.
  • What's more, the definitions of AI buzzwords like "fairness" and "transparency" are still up for grabs. How they are codified will have a sweeping effect on the way AI systems are deployed and whom they benefit — companies, governments, or users.

Beijing got out of the starting gate first: Last year, China published a detailed report focused on ethical norms and technical standards that are meant to allow companies to work together more easily. A few months later, Beijing hosted the first major international meeting on AI standards.

  • For China, shaping global AI standards is key to “seizing a new round of technology dominance," according to the Chinese report, published by the government, industry and academia. (Jeff Ding, an Oxford AI policy researcher, translated it into English.)
  • At the Beijing meeting, the Chinese delegation ended up with plum spots on planning groups and helped shape their agendas, wrote Ding, Eurasia Group's Paul Triolo and New America's Samm Sacks in the months after the summit.
  • China's strong showing "could enable Chinese actors to influence a wide range of issues related to AI standards, including ethical and social norm development," they wrote.

The response: The Trump administration has vigorously pushed back against China's tech drive. Trump earlier this year signed an executive order designed to keep Beijing at bay on AI.

  • Last week, as required by the order, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) proposed a plan to work with industry and academia on new metrics and standards for accuracy, "trustworthiness" and bias of AI systems.
  • The EU and OECD have also advanced high-level guidelines.

One short-term risk of this international rush is a "rebordering" of AI, in which the field will develop according to different rules in the U.S., Europe and China. Thus far, AI has been characterized by significant international collaboration.

  • "We could have researchers and companies having to pick a side," says Amy Webb, an NYU professor and founder of the Future Today Institute.
  • "This could drastically reduce productivity; it could drastically increase costs."

The big question: Where a potential future global policy will settle. Everyone realizes that they will have to compromise to yield the prize — unitary rules.

  • But meanwhile each side is driving stakes in the ground now so that they can pull the eventual consensus in their direction.
  • "One country is not getting exactly what it wants," says Elham Tabassi, acting chief of staff at NIST's information technology laboratory.

Go deeper

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.

Biden pushes massive economic plan despite "stalemate"

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday urged congressional Democrats to overcome differences surrounding his multi-trillion-dollar economic proposal but said he's still confident it will pass.

Why it matters: It's currently unclear how the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill and the $3.5 trillion reconciliation package will move forward with moderate and progressive Democrats in disagreement over critical portions of the legislation.

"An embarrassment": Biden condemns Border Patrol for using horses to deter Haitian migrants

President Biden speaking from the White House on Sept. 24. Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden on Friday condemned Border Patrol officers for using horses to deter Haitian immigrants from an encampment under the international bridge earlier this week but took responsibility for the actions and said an investigation is underway.

Why it matters: Photos of patrol officers charging their horses at immigrants prompted criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!