Trump's American AI Initiative Missed an Opportunity to Address Immigration and Data Collection

By Robert Seamans

On its own, immigration can help boost economic growth, but immigration is also critical to retaining the U.S. lead in AI.

By Robert Seamans

On Monday, President Trump signed an Executive Order launching the “American AI Initiative.” The goal of the initiative is to promote American artificial intelligence (AI) to “increase our Nation’s prosperity, enhance our national and economic security, and improve quality of life for the American people.”

Notably, the initiative opts for a market-based approach to regulate AI, whereby the government provides guidance—for example—by using the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to set AI governance standards—and companies compete to serve customers. These are all worthy goals, and the market-based approach is a good one. However, the initiative missed an opportunity to address two additional issues: immigration and data collection.


Given the current dispute over border wall funding, it isn’t surprising that the Executive Order is silent on immigration. But it is useful to remind ourselves why immigration is important when it comes to AI: many of the leading computer scientists in the field are immigrants. Our domestic policy should be focused on attracting and retaining leaders in the field. Anecdotally, Canada has benefited from stricter U.S. immigration policy over the past two years, with leading scientists leaving the United States for Canada.  As described in a recent Bloomberg article, Canada has created a program called the Global Skills Strategy that issues temporary work permits to immigrants in certain categories including senior software engineers in as little as two weeks.

Read the full Forbes article.

Robert Seamans is Associate Professor of Management and Organizations