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Image: Dong Wenjie/Getty Images

Trump administration officials and Silicon Valley execs will discuss some of the hottest questions about artificial intelligence later this week, including whether the technology can evolve in an ethical way without new government regulations.

Why it matters: The all-day Thursday meeting is the most public effort by the Trump White House so far to wrap its head around AI, although staffers have been talking with people outside the White House about the topic for months.

The potential for regulation of the universe of AI technologies looms over the meeting. A draft agenda distributed by the White House says that one major topic of discussion will be removing “barriers to AI innovation in the United States.”

  • “When [the Office of Science and Technology Policy] set the session up one of the first things they said to me on the phone was, ‘We believe in an approach that lets industry innovate and does not have government regulate in a precautionary way,’” said top IBM lobbyist Chris Padilla, noting he was paraphrasing the White House’s comments.

What we’re hearing: Expect several companies to raise the importance of developing AI in an ethical and responsible way.

  • Facebook, facing a confidence crisis after the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, will raise the issue of ethically approaching the questions posed by AI. Google has similarly presented itself as a thoughtful player in the artificial intelligence landscape.
  • Several older technology companies — like IBM and Microsoft — are trying to portray themselves as more responsible than their younger counterparts when it comes to handling the data that's used to train AI programs. Intel, for example, put out principles for AI last year that include “rethink privacy” and “create new human employment opportunities and protect people’s’ welfare.” Its CEO, Brian Krzanich, is expected to attend the White House meeting.
  • With attendees discussing developing “the American workforce to take advantage of the benefits of AI,” expect talk of the ways that AI could automate people out of a job.

Government attendees span the federal government, representing executive agencies, the National Science Foundation and the intelligence community. Sessions later in the day will be devoted to how artificial intelligence is affecting industries like transportation, agriculture and healthcare.

The big picture: The United States is racing against, among others, China and countries in the European Union to dominate what's expected to be a gigantic new market. That rivalry is likely to come up in the meeting, too. Dean Garfield, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, said that it was unknown whether the White House has “the internal capacity” to keep the U.S. competitive with other countries on AI, because “we know for a fact that there is that human power focused on AI in Europe, China and other parts of the world.”

The bottom line: Many of the administration's goals — like limiting regulation — seem in line with what much of the industry wants.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 2: Barbarians at the Oval

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 2: Trump stops buying what his professional staff are telling him, and increasingly turns to radical voices telling him what he wants to hear.

President Trump plunked down in an armchair in the White House residence, still dressed from his golf game — navy fleece, black pants, white MAGA cap. It was Saturday, Nov. 7. The networks had just called the election for Joe Biden.

Fringe right plots new attacks out of sight

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Domestic extremists are using obscure and private corners of the internet to plot new attacks ahead of Inauguration Day. Their plans are also hidden in plain sight, buried in podcasts and online video platforms.

Why it matters: Because law enforcement was caught flat-footed during last week's Capitol siege, researchers and intelligence agencies are paying more attention to online threats that could turn into real-world violence.

Kids’ screen time up 50% during pandemic

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn't budged, according to new figures from the firm.

Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.