WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama on Monday promised a major investment in research and development for scientific innovation, saying the United States has fallen behind others.
“I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow — but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development,” Obama said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We will not just meet but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race,” he said.
Obama said the investments he is proposing would lead to breakthroughs, such as solar cells as cheap as paint and green buildings that produce all the energy they consume.
The pursuit of discovery a half century ago fueled the nation’s prosperity and success, Obama told the academy.
“The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years,” he said. “This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research.”
He set forth a wish list for the future including “learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us.
“We can do this,” Obama said to applause.
An interesting way of looking at this figure is as the revealed preference of how much of a nation’s resources are spent on fundamental improvement rather than merely continuing to exist at the current level of technology and capability.
AI software truly as effective as a personal tutor would probably have to be an AGI, incidentally. I’m not sure why Obama picked such a high bar as an example of AI research, but perhaps he really means “almost as good as a personal tutor”. In narrow domains, that might be possible with narrow AI, but not truly, because a really good personal tutor can make analogies and connections across completely different domains, and thus requires domain-general knowledge and reasoning.