​The Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on AI and Advanced Technologies convened for a special debate on the global race to AI

The Science and Technology Committee's Subcommittee on Artificial Intelligence and Advanced Technologies, chaired by MK Orit Farkash Hacohen (National Unity Party), convened on Tuesday for a special debate on the topic of the global race to AI and the geopolitical impact of this race. The debate was held in light of the changes in the technology world due to the rise of artificial intelligence, including the transition to a less global world, as each country invests huge resources in a technological “arms race" of capabilities and infrastructure, in order to maintain its independence and technological leadership.

Subcommittee Chair MK Farkash Hacohen: “In order to be a leader, the State of Israel has to invest in infrastructure in this field—in a multi-annual plan, in infrastructure and computing power, in uncompromising investment in education to artificial intelligence, and in academics, whose number in Israel is tiny relative to the field in question. The US President dedicates executive orders to tasks that will ensure the technological status of the United States in the artificial intelligence age, through huge investments and long-term plans. The same is true for China, Iran, Russia, France, Germany, Canada, Singapore, the UAE, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and others.

“In Israel, a great deal of costly money goes to subsidies for coalition funds, and to sectarian causes, during wartime, while the countries of the world rush forward and invest a fortune with the aim of making themselves leaders in the artificial intelligence field and preserving their technological independence. The world is not waiting. The race is underway, and we are losing it. At this time, of war budgets and a large deficit, it is important to keep our eyes on this issue," said MK Farkash Hacohen.

Ziv Katzir, Head of the National Program for AI Infrastructure at the Israel Innovation Authority, said that Israel was in an excellent position and was consistently ranked among the top ten world countries, and influenced international processes in this field, such as formulation of the first international Convention on Artificial Intelligence, Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, extensive activity within the international working group [on this issue], taking part in the American declaration on the issue at the UN General Assembly and more.

Katzir noted that the ministries were now accelerating the plans in this field by issuing a call for proposals for inculcating artificial intelligence in the public sector, creating a regulation department in the Ministry of Science, encouraging innovation in hardware and issuing a tender by the end of the year for purchasing a first supercomputer in Israel.

Hadassa Getsztain of the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology said that Israel was the first nation to present the concept of responsible innovation, which encourages the development of innovative solutions while taking risks into consideration, and had posted a 153-page document on the topic online.

High-tech entrepreneur Eyal Waldman, the founder of Mellanox, said that the Israeli Government should set itself the goal of building a supercomputer, setting up an artificial intelligence institute and supporting research in this field. He said, “It's a mark of shame for the State of Israel that it's not on the TOP500 supercomputer list. The State of Israel should have a supercomputer that serves as infrastructure for many things. The supercomputer will maintain itself commercially—once every three years it is passed over to the academic world and a new computer is bought. This model exists in many countries."

Uri Eliabayev, AI consultant and lecturer, presented a comprehensive review on the Arab states in the region, which are already implementing government plans in the AI field and hold supercomputers on a serious scale. He said that while they are striving forward and gaining momentum, Israel does not have a governmental strategy to keep its technological lead.

Dr. Ariel Sobelman of the Institute for National Security Studies said, “For the past four years, the world has been engaged in a global technological war known as the 'chip war,' and Israel is currently not independent in hardware and microchips. Israel may be a world power in software and service, but not in hardware and microchips. It's impossible to develop artificial intelligence without the iron, the computer hardware. Israel is the last advanced country that hasn't yet initiated a national technology program in general, and for microchips specifically."

Subcommittee Chair MK Farkash Hacohen said in summation that immediate action should be taken to ensure Israel's infrastructure and technological status and independence. The Government should pass an urgent resolution for a long-term, large-scale national plan on leadership and strengthening Israel's technological independence in artificial intelligence, and form a dedicated team on the security challenge that this technology will pose for Israel, while continuing to enhance the rules of ethics for use of this technology. MK Farkash Hacohen noted that during her term as Minister of Innovation, she initiated a plan of this kind together with the former Minister of Finance, but it was downsized and became a lower priority for the Government.