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Virginia Tech students test software on a robot. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The U.S. and China, front runners in the race to lead the world in AI, are playing with different strengths: China has vast amounts of data and money at its disposal, but the U.S. has a significant leg up in talent.

The big picture: Crucially, the American talent pool is made up mostly of international researchers and students, according to a new analysis from Joy Dantong Ma of the Paulson Institute.

More than half of the best-of-the-best AI researchers in the U.S. are originally from other countries, Ma writes.

  • Why it matters: If Ma is right, the Trump administration's immigration policy may be damaging its efforts to win the AI race.
  • New visa restrictions specifically targeting Chinese immigrants could be especially harmful to U.S. universities trying to attract the best students for AI programs — and, by extension, to U.S. companies looking to hire top AI talent once they graduate.

By the numbers:

  • Ma began by examining the research papers accepted in 2018 to NeurIPS, a prestigious academic conference on AI. Last year, only 30 of the 4,800 submitted papers were accepted for oral presentations.
  • Those 30 papers had 113 authors in all. Of these leading researchers, 60% work at American companies or study at American universities, Ma found — four times the number who work and study in Canada, the runner-up.
  • But when Ma looked at where these top researchers did their undergrad studies, the picture shifted. The majority came from abroad — and about one in four are from China.

Continuing to import top AI researchers from around the globe is critical to maintaining the U.S. competitive edge, Ma tells Axios.

"A sweeping change in policy ... risks immediate loss of foreign talent and sends some of them right back to China. … In the longer term, it sends the signal to emerging and aspiring scientists that America is not open for business."
— Joy Ma, Paulson Institute

Go deeper

FAA clears more planes after 5G fears

Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it had approved nearly 80% of the U.S. commercial fleet to perform low-visibility landings at airports with new 5G services after fears of signal interference limited 5G rollout.

Why it matters: The FAA approvals will help provide more certainty after the agency raised fears that 5G signals could reduce the accuracy of certain equipment, known as radio altimeters, that helps planes land and take off in inclement weather.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Peloton stock tanks on report of production halt

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Peloton stock fell by as much as 25% on Thursday, following a CNBC report that the connected fitness company will temporarily halt production on its bikes and treadmills.

Why it matters: Peloton is viewed by many as a proxy for consumer behavior in the pandemic era, as its popularity surged when gyms closed and people wanted to exercise at home.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters, WHO says — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older.
  5. Variant tracker