How mourning Hawking turned into China-bashing story

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/15 22:53:41

While the entire world mourns the loss of Stephen Hawking, the BBC published an article "Stephen Hawking: China's love for the late physicist" reviewing his relations with the Middle Kingdom. After introducing Hawking's story in China, the report switched the topic to Hawking's concerns about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and China's developments in this field.

"We should do all we can to ensure that its future development benefits us and our environment," the author quoted Hawking as saying. "China is now one of the world's leaders in investing, developing and using AI technology, such as using facial recognition to catch criminals - and to keep a close eye on the population."

There is also a video attached to the article about China's Skynet Project, a camera surveillance network that is able to scan faces and compare them with its database of criminal suspects, which was made by a BBC correspondent last year.

According to reports, the BBC reporter was invited to take a test of the effectiveness of Skynet in Guiyang, Guizhou Province. But he distorted the technology of China and slandered the nation for allegedly cracking down on people's freedoms.

Because of differences in political systems, it seems that nothing China does is right in the eyes of Western media. Such a prejudice resulted from their double standard when it comes to China. It's not that AI or facial recognition is evil, but when they are connected to China's system, the West cannot possibly deem them trustworthy, despite their advantages. Yet utilizing the death of a great master in science to throw mud at China's system is jaw dropping. 

Did Hawking worry about AI? Yes. But his anxiety mainly focused on the hypothesis that humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded by AI, period.

The Western media cannot stop defaming China for its AI and facial recognition technology. In December, The New York Times introduced China's developments in these fields. After describing how the new software identifies conference-goers' gender, hair length, color and characterizes the clothes they were wearing, the article summarized that the tech "is meant to reinforce and be guided by the steady hand of the state."

Nowadays AI is giving surveillance cameras digital brains to match their eyes, which are able to analyze live videos and spot dangers before they happen, with no humans necessary. China is not the only one exploring this field. The FBI, MI6, as well as many other institutions and countries are using the technology. According to a report by Georgetown Law's Center for Privacy and Technology, half of American adults are in the US government's law enforcement face recognition network.

When it comes to this topic, privacy concerns are only natural. We do need boundaries and lines in the practice of the technique. More exploration is needed. But it seems paranoid for the Western media to connect it with China's system on all occasions, especially when the BBC makes use of the death of a respectable, revered and admired man.

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