China’s artificial intelligence show is like a glimpse of the future.
In fact, this week Shanghai has been packed with the brightest and best in the industry for the annual World Summit. artificial intelligence Meeting.
The fair was an impressive display.
Lots of stuff here is fun and crowd-friendly – like the basketball court that can advise you on improving your technique and the robotic arm that tells you your horoscope.
But there are also major industry innovations that will transform businesses from logistics to manufacturing and construction.
The whole world will watch what’s going on here and ask if China is winning the development race – and how it will use its new features.
In an atmosphere of extreme competition and tension between the US and China, artificial intelligence is a critical front line.
Some of the biggest beasts in China are here and know the game.
Companies like Baidu — the Google of China.
It created China’s most advanced consumer-facing ‘chatbot’ — a language-based program that has its answer Chat GPT.
Obviously, they take great pride in the work they do here, including chip development, but there’s also patriotism.
This was evident when talking to Baidu marketing consultant Hao Wu.
“We believe that artificial intelligence will provide a lot of support for the development of industrial intelligence.” He said.
“Baidu and Chinese companies jointly develop artificial intelligence-related technologies, which is to follow the president’s call: ‘Focus on the lives and health of the people, the country’s major scientific and technological needs, the global technological frontier, and the development of the national economy’.” “.
China has made impressive progress – but still lags behind the US
China has also made impressive progress in some areas, such as the military and cybersecurity, but experts generally agree that China still lags slightly behind the United States overall.
There are many reasons for this situation.
Successful AI development requires three key elements: large volumes of high-quality data, the right people with exceptional expertise, and state-of-the-art software and hardware.
First, the situation in China is mixed.
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While it has more data than Western countries in some areas, such as facial recognition, there are limiting factors in others.
For example, the proportion of Chinese content on the Internet is relatively small, which means that it can obtain less information.
In terms of talent, experts say there are talented people in China, but it has recently been reported that companies like Microsoft Moving AI centers out of China could limit China’s future access to the best talent.
But China is particularly hindered in terms of hardware and software.
China lacks ‘foundational’ elements for rapid development
That’s largely because last year the U.S. rolled out a significant new set of export regulations that essentially prevented China from getting the best chips and technology.
For all the brilliance of AI developers, there is a finite lack of these chips and the models to make them.
This is a question that was raised by many people at the meeting, including the public,
“I think there’s a lot of competition in China right now,” said visiting enthusiast Edward Chang.
“But it also doesn’t have something fundamental like a big chip, so I don’t think it’s likely that it will go any faster if it wants to.”
But China does have advantages in some areas.
‘Data label town’ doing important work
To learn about them, we traveled more than 1,000 miles from Shanghai to a small town in rural Guizhou province.
Bainiaohe Digital Town is a strange place. It’s in the middle of nowhere and looks a little run down, but it’s doing important work.
It’s known in some circles as “Data Labeling Town” because of the number of companies that do this very important work.
It involves people manually “teaching” a computer what it’s looking at by describing data verbatim — how to tell a dog from a cat, for example.
This is an area where China really wins, as it has better access to an adequate and affordable workforce.
In Bainajo, much of the work is done by students while they study — people like Su Yongjiang, whom we met at lunch with his friends.
He told us he had just arrived and would be doing data tagging.
“I benefit from the development of artificial intelligence,” he said. “It’s good to be able to make money and make a living.”
“Severe regulation will hinder the development of the industry”
But if people power is an advantage, then regulation is a potential disadvantage, and experts agree that China could go further than other countries.
The information here is already heavily censored — in fact, China’s draft AI regulations released stress that products need to conform to “core socialist values.”
“I think China is already more regulated than the rest of the world,” said Karman Lucero, a Yale University researcher who specializes in emerging technology regulation and U.S.-China relations.
“Strong regulation, at least for now, will hold back the industry,” he said.
So far, the approach has been a very broad approach, he said.
But the future of the Chinese approach is unclear.
“It’s the uncertainty it creates,” he explained. “Tech companies don’t have a clear idea of what’s allowed and what’s not, so I think they’re going to be very hesitant, like they were in 2015.”
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Back at the conference, there was optimism — despite the recognition that AI does need some regulation to protect people and jobs.
The industry is moving so fast that it’s hard to predict what’s going to happen next.
But China is clearly a key player and is catching up.