Tech ex­ecs at White House to field ideas for U.S. dom­i­nance

Medicine Hat News - - LIFESTYLES - MATT O’BRIEN

Top ex­ec­u­tives from Google, Mi­crosoft, IBM, Or­a­cle and Qual­comm gath­ered at the White House amid strained ties be­tween Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s ad­min­is­tra­tion and the tech in­dus­try and an on­go­ing trade war with China.

The White House called the Thurs­day lunch meet­ing a lis­ten­ing ses­sion to field ideas for se­cur­ing Amer­i­can dom­i­nance in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, quan­tum com­put­ing, ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing and faster wire­less tech­nol­ogy known as 5G.

Trump was not ex­pected to at­tend, but his daugh­ter and ad­viser, Ivanka Trump, is help­ing to or­ga­nize the gath­er­ing. Those sched­uled to at­tend in­cluded Google CEO Sun­dar Pichai, Mi­crosoft CEO Satya Nadella, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, Or­a­cle co-CEO Safra Catz and Qual­comm CEO Steven Mol­lenkopf.

Some of Trump’s poli­cies on trade and im­mi­gra­tion have an­tag­o­nized the tech in­dus­try.

The trade war be­tween the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and China has threat­ened to make prod­ucts like iPhones more ex­pen­sive as Trump has warned of pos­si­ble new tar­iffs on Chi­nese-made goods. The Com­merce De­part­ment is ex­plor­ing new ex­port re­stric­tions that would tar­get in­dus­tries where China is hop­ing to get ahead, such as ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and ro­bot­ics.

And a re­cent U.S.-Chi­nese cease-fire over the tar­iff dis­pute was at risk of de­rail­ing this week as Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties ar­rested an ex­ec­u­tive for Chi­nese phone-maker Huawei Tech­nolo­gies for pos­si­ble ex­tra­di­tion to the United States.

U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Robert Lighthizer and chief eco­nomic ad­viser Larry Kud­low are at­tend­ing the Thurs­day sum­mit, in part a re­flec­tion of the height­ened con­cerns about trade. For­mer Sec­re­tary of State Henry Kissinger, who has re­cently ex­pressed in­ter­est in AI, will also be there, as will the pres­i­dents of top engi­neer­ing uni­ver­si­ties such as Carnegie Mel­lon and the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

The meet­ing will be the first of two high-pro­file Wash­ing­ton vis­its this month for Google’s chief ex­ec­u­tive. Pichai is also sched­uled to tes­tify Tues­day at a con­gres­sional hear­ing on the com­pany’s busi­ness prac­tices, just three months af­ter aides put up an empty chair to sym­bol­ize his re­fusal to ap­pear.

Repub­li­can law­mak­ers are ex­pected to grill him on whether Google rigs its in­flu­en­tial search en­gine to sti­fle con­ser­va­tive voices. Trump has as­serted that Google’s search en­gine favours me­dia cov­er­age that he be­lieves dis­trib­utes “fake news.”

No­tably ab­sent from Thurs­day’s White House at­tendee list was Ama­zon CEO Jeff Be­zos, a fre­quent tar­get of Trump crit­i­cism. Also not at­tend­ing were Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook and Face­book CEO Mark Zucker­berg.

White House se­nior of­fi­cials down­played those lead­ers’ ab­sence Thurs­day, along with the pres­i­dent’s likely ab­sence. They de­scribed the meet­ing as part of what will be an on­go­ing se­ries of pri­vate ses­sions to gather ex­pert in­put that will later be el­e­vated to the pres­i­dent’s at­ten­tion.

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