The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) announced this week the establishment of the Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies.

The new AI center’s main goal is to produce in-depth research, analysis, and policy recommendations to equip lawmakers and government officials with a better understanding of rapidly evolving technology ecosystems and their impacts on U.S. national security.

The Wadhwani Center’s establishment at the D.C.-based think tank was made possible by a $5 million commitment from CSIS Trustee Romesh Wadhwani – a leading Silicon Valley entrepreneur with more than 50 years of experience in leading software and AI technology companies. CSIS’s Gregory Allen will serve as the director of the Center.

“I really think we are now in the world of tech power, and if we don’t wake up, tech power is going to be very damaging to us geopolitically,” Wadhwani said during CSIS’s virtual launch event on April 3. “China is ahead of us in the use of AI.”

“Technology – particularly this new generation of AI technology, this generative AI, which is advancing at lightning speed – is moving at a speed that completely outstrips the ability of our geopolitical strategies, policies, and regulatory frameworks to keep up,” Wadhwani explained. “It’s not like they were keeping up well before with the previous generation of technology.”

Allen, the moderator of CSIS’s event and the incoming director for its new AI center, agreed with Wadhwani.

“There are three broad categories where the government needs to transform itself to deal with this new era of technology,” Allen said. “The first thing the government needs to do is to know what’s going on. It needs to improve its knowledge and understanding of technology’s usage, trends, and implications for its overall goals.”

“The second thing it needs to do is actually promote the adoption of the technology – both in its own governmental institutions and also in the broader economy,” Allen stated. “I think there’s an extraordinary amount of economic benefit and government capacity benefit to be harnessed with the effective use of digital technology – most importantly, AI.”

“The final thing that the government has to do is protect,” Allen said. “Both from the risks of accidents and unintentional harms as well as potential malicious uses of advanced technology – whether from individuals or nation states that would potentially do the United States harm.”

Wadhwani agreed with Allen, explaining his thought process behind founding the Wadhwani Center for AI and Advanced Technologies.

“Our regulatory frameworks were not keeping up, even before generative AI. They are falling very, very far behind. And to really take full advantage of these advance technologies, we have to focus on maximizing the benefits we get from them while managing the downsides,” he said.

“Every technology has a downside associated with it and the way you manage the technology – whether it’s electricity or whether it’s airplanes – is you put the proper policies and regulatory frameworks in place to manage the risks, manage the downsides,” Wadhwani said.

“I felt that there was a need for some important policy think tank in Washington, D.C. to integrate research, insights, and recommendations on policies that are focused on AI and advanced technologies to facilitate decision making by policymakers, by government officials, by others,” the founder of the center said.

CSIS said that the Wadhwani Center will appoint a distinguished Board of Advisors and will work closely with policymakers, government officials, and AI technology experts in academia and business to achieve its mission.

“The time was now and the partnership with CSIS was the right partnership to really create a center like this with the mission of informing policymakers, government officials, providing them with deep insights, providing them with recommendations on the application of these fast-moving AI and advanced technologies in the geopolitical arena through the appropriate strategies, policies, and regulatory frameworks,” Wadhwani said.

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Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan
Cate Burgan is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.