Henry Paulson: “We’re letting China win the 5G race. It’s time to catch up.”

Henry M. Paulson Jr. is the former treasury secretary and chairman of the Paulson Institute.

England may have sparked the first industrial revolution with the steam engine, but its potential was realized in the United States. America led the second and third industrial revolutions — automobiles, computers and Internet — creating the foundation for U.S. economic superiority.

But today, with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, the United States is falling behind.

While our universities and tech firms still lead in cutting-edge innovation — from artificial intelligence to 5G wireless technology — it is China that has deployed them. The United States is losing the commercialization race, a failure of our own making. We must urgently confront these shortcomings to make up for lost time and opportunity.

Powerful AI algorithms and machine learning techniques make everything faster and more efficient. If AI is the new “electricity,” then 5G is the transmission and distribution infrastructure needed to enable these technologies to perform optimally.

This new “digital highway” centered on 5G will give rise to new industries and services previously unimagined. The United States must redouble its efforts to build such a digital infrastructure and make the commercialization of the Internet of Things a reality.