The Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) new five-year strategic plan calls for more federal research and development spending to drive the potential of five emerging technologies it says could change society.
The report talks in detail about fiscal “sustainability models showing the future of U.S. debt and deficits, technology assessments on key areas of technological innovation, and Comptroller General Forums that bring leading experts together to explore emerging issues of national importance.” Two of these are blockchain technology and A.I, two interrelated technologies.
Cryptocurrencies – or referred to by the GAO as virtual currencies – offer benefits such as anonymity and lower
transaction costs but notes drawbacks such as making it harder to detect money laundering and other financial crimes. While blockchain technology could reshape financial services and could potentially change the fintech industry, but have more security vulnerabilities, while quantum computing, an area of quantum information science, develops.
“Virtual currencies and the blockchain technology used to transact them have grown in popularity in recent years as they present an alternative to traditional currencies issued by governments and allow for a secure method of conducting digital asset transfers in near real time. Such services could reshape financial services or affect the security of critical financial infrastructures.”, the report notes.
Artificial Intelligence or A.I. has the potential produce smarter machines that perform more sophisticated tasks but could disrupt the job market by eliminating jobs and creating others with new skill requirements, the report notes. It’s no secret that many A.I. front runners are using blockchain technology for A.I. development. Decentralized Artificial Intelligence may very well be the “future of A.I.”
But the GAO, while saying that a wealth of attention has been given to these emerging technologies, is concerned with the decreasing commitment to R&D in the United States.
As other sites report: “The report notes that after a peak of $147 billion in R&D spending in fiscal 2010, funding levels have been variable following nearly a decade of protracted budget battles that have included sequestration, government shutdowns and a string of continuing resolutions.”
“In part, these challenges arise from growing constraints on the federal budget—a major source of R&D support,” the report said. “Federal spending constraints raise questions about whether the United States will be able to sustain its current level of science and technology investment and whether the United States will be in a position to drive the science and technology advances of the future.”
GAO officials also notes plenty of uncertainty surrounding these technologies: It may be many years before technologies like AI and quantum technology yield their full potential, and the use of blockchain could produce unforeseen impacts on government services, it says. But those concerns only increase the need for funding to further study them.