USF professor on artificial intelligence: 'Data is the new oil'

President Trump says China manipulated its currency to gain an unfair trade advantage. But, while many watch the stock market, another battle with China is brewing. It’s a race for artificial intelligence, or AI.

AI is any kind of technology that can recognize faces, help doctors diagnose diseases, and recognize a gun on surveillance cameras and automatically call the police.

It’s done by computer technology that can sift through data at lightning speed, and everybody wants it. 

“I read an interesting phrase a few weeks back that 'data is the new oil.' It's the new good we should have control over," said Sagar Samtani, an assistant professor and AI researcher at the University of South Florida.

He says China kicked off a major initiative that rivals U.S. companies like Google. Samtani says the future of AI could be far-reaching, “From a warfare point of view, I think it could have a lot of ramifications.” 

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Uses on the battlefield can include drones that can identify targets and evade threats. The Pentagon has sunk billions of dollars into AI to help fight future wars and defend the U.S. from enemies who develop, and possibly steal artificial intelligence. 

“No American company can compete with a Chinese company that doesn’t have to make a profit,” offered Senator Marco Rubio. “They guaranteed a market share in their own company. China has been waging an economic war against the U.S. for two decades.” 

Rubio is suspicious of China, where a government-backed push is underway to develop new artificial intelligence for many potential uses. 

Samtani believes the U.S. can be successful in the AI race. “So long as we’re leading in what we need for our priorities, that’s the most important thing,” he added.