China’s Race to AI Supremacy

China has a declared ambition to equal the U.S. in its AI capability by 2020 and to be No. 1 in the world by 2030. (Image: geralt via Pixabay/cc0)
China has a declared ambition to equal the U.S. in its AI capability by 2020 and to be No. 1 in the world by 2030. (Image: geralt via Pixabay/cc0)

Artificial intelligence from a Chinese tech giant has defeated the country’s best player of the board game Go. The artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Chinese company Tencent beat world No. 2 Go player Ke Jie last week with a 2-stone handicap, the official People’s Daily newspaper reported.

AI development a national policy in China

“China has a declared ambition to equal the U.S. in its AI capability by 2020, and to be No.1 in the world by 2030,” said Professor Toby Walsh, a leading AI expert from the University of New South Wales.

Professor Walsh, who is also the author of the book It’s Alive: Artificial Intelligence from the Logic Piano to Killer Robots, said it was significant the first two breakthroughs in the field this year have come from Chinese companies.

Data to replace money in making the world go round

China’s almost non-existing privacy policy and its enormous smartphone market — which generates a huge amount of data that can be used in AI research — also give the country a natural advantage in the sector.

China's almost non-existing privacy policy and its enormous smartphone market — which generates a huge amount of data that can be used in AI research — also give the country a natural advantage in the sector. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

China’s almost non-existing privacy policy and its enormous smartphone market — which generates a huge amount of data that can be used in AI research — also give the country a natural advantage in the sector. (Image: wikimedia / CC0 1.0)

China a nose ahead in some cases

Professor Walsh said according to some measures, Chinese companies were already outperforming their rivals — but there was still room for improvement. The only obstacle is quality.

“In terms of the pure output, the number of papers and patents and so on, China is now actually ahead of the U.S.,” he said.

“If you look more closely at the data, look at the quality of the work, look at things like the citations, you can still see that the U.S. is still ahead of China.”

However, while China is interested in how the technology can be used to improve living standards, it remains clear-eyed about the potential military applications of AI.

The government’s strategy makes it clear information on technological developments is to be shared between civilian and military researchers.

Conclusion

The rise of AI in our present and future is inevitable. Many specialists hope, however, that we can put our efforts into making AI serve a good purpose so that implementing AI on a larger scale will not harm but help preserve humanity’s values and morals.

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