AI offers China chance to boost industrial competitiveness

By Wang Wenwen Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/23 22:38:39

The mission of humanity now falls on the shoulders of 19-year-old Chinese grandmaster Ke Jie, the world's top player of Go. From Tuesday, he will battle Google's artificial intelligence (AI) program DeepMind's AlphaGo in a three-match contest in a waterfront town in China.

The board game of Go is known for its complexity, and it was long considered beyond the reach of AI algorithms. But AlphaGo's previous wins against a long list of top human players, including South Korea's Lee Sedol, proved that AI and machine learning could surpass human efforts.

AlphaGo already defeated Ke in the first game on Tuesday. No matter what the final result is, the AI-versus-human mind contest is an indication that AI has morphed into an indispensable part of 21st century life.

In China, this industry is thriving. As Goldman Sachs noted in a report to clients last December, AI, Machine Learning and Data Fuel the Future of Productivity, China's Internet giants such as Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are leading the China AI market, while "hundreds of start-ups are also penetrating the industry and establishing services models in various AI segments and application areas."

Kai-Fu Lee, founder of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures and a leading voice on tech in China, believes that robots are likely to replace 50 percent of all jobs in the world in the next decade, and these people can engage in more creative, speculative and productive work. AI, he argues, will be the biggest opportunity for China to raise global competitiveness.

China is set to advance with the world's tech powerhouses. Many Chinese companies working in traditional industries lag behind those in the US.

But having the world's largest-scale Internet market, China can utilize AI to catch up or even overtake the US. In September 2015, Baidu launched a new AI-based digital assistant, Duer, which can be integrated into its mobile search app and tailor suggestions to a user's tastes. It is set to rival the products of American tech companies such as Apple's Siri, Google Now and Microsoft's Cortana.

The boundary between human intelligence and AI is not fixed yet. In the eyes of DeepMind's founder and CEO Demis Hassabi, AI is more a tool for people to "discover new knowledge together." AI can help improve healthcare, environment and education levels, but it also poses complex ethical, legal and security challenges.

Therefore, a prudent supervision system should be adopted as AI becomes more widespread in our everyday lives. It is up to China to take the chance to become the rule-maker of AI and thus benefit all mankind.

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