As reported by the Wall Street Journal, analysts and members of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) expect that the presidency of Joe Biden will continue to make research and development for AI and quantum computing technologies a priority, although aspects of Biden’s approach to regulation and spending are expected to differ. While federal investments in R&D for the Information Technology sector have fallen over the course of the last few decades, in February the White House announced a plan to increasing spending on AI and quantum technologies, and the Biden presidency is expected to continue the commitment.
At the moment, total federal research and development funding sits at around $134.1 billion, while the Trump administration had proposed an increase to $142.4 billion for total federal R&D funding.
In February the Trump administration announced a plan to increase annual spending on AI by more than $2 billion dollars over the course of the next two years. This was to be accompanied by an increase in funding for quantum information science to the tune of $860 million dollars over the same period. According to an analyst at research and advisory firm Constellation Research, Ray Wang, these commitments are likely to last under the Biden presidency as both parties place importance on US competitiveness within the industries. In fact, president of the ITIF, Robert D. Atkinson, the amount of funding for AI and quantum information technologies could actually increase during the Biden administration. This is because the Biden presidency is expected to see overall funding for R&D increase.
The Biden campaign is reportedly proposing additional innovation funding, coming to approximately $300 billion dollars between now and 2024. The money would go towards advances not only in the sector of quantum computing and AI but for other technical innovations like 5G and clean energy. This is being done partly to keep the US competitive with China, which has been investing heavily in these same technology sectors.
Biden’s administration is likely to see a shift in regulatory approaches. The administration could potentially require AI algorithms to be explainable and transparent within certain parameters before being deployed for business purposes.
Beyond the previously mentioned funding increases, the Biden administration is expected to support R&D initiatives that currently enjoy bipartisan backing. These include investments in quantum communications systems.
The transition between administrations comes just as quantum technologies are being heavily investigated for their potential to augment AI systems. Current AI systems are limited primarily by the amount of data that they access and how quickly this data can be processed and analyzed. Many of the problems that AI systems currently deal with could be addressed by superior training data. Quantum computers could be used to give AI algorithms trillions of more data points, drastically enhancing utility and accuracy. Quantum computers are able to go beyond the limitations of binary encoding, theoretically enhancing processing power as well as making datasets larger and more diverse.
Quantum computers and AI can augment each other. While quantum computing technology could improve the reliability and potential of AI, AI could also improve the performance of quantum computers. Quantum computers return results that are full of noise, with the correct result found somewhere within all of the noise. Traditional supercomputers could help in eliminating much of the noise.
Quantum technology is of great interest to political parties in the US because of increasing cybersecurity concerns, and it seems likely that the Biden administration would keep up investments in quantum technology for that reason. Currently, one of the major projects relating to quantum computing is a plan to develop a nationwide quantum internet, which would allow the secure transmission of sensitive information relating to national security. The plan is being carried out by a group of researchers and engineers led by members of the Department of Energy and the University of Chicago. The researchers are aiming to start rolling out the quantum internet in about a decade.