China wants to shape the global future of artificial intelligence

By | March 18, 2018

MIT Technology Review reports:

China isn’t just investing heavily in AI—its experts aim to set the global standards for the technology as well.

Academics, industry researchers, and government experts gathered in Beijing last November to discuss AI policy issues. The resulting document, published in Chinese recently, shows that the country’s experts are thinking in detail about the technology’s potential impact. Together with the Chinese government’s strategic plan for AI, it also suggests that China plans to play a role in setting technical standards for AI going forward.

Chinese companies would be required to adhere to these standards, and as the technology spreads globally, this could help China influence the technology’s course. Indeed, big Chinese companies including Tencent and Alibaba are rapidly adding AI capabilities to their cloud offerings and selling those services overseas (see “Inside the Chinese lab that wants to wire the world with AI”).

“[The Chinese government] sees standardization not only as a way to provide competitiveness for their companies, but also as a way to go from being a follower to setting the pace,” says Jeffrey Ding, a student at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute who studies China’s nascent AI industry, and who translated the report. The government’s plan cites the way US standards bodies have influenced the development of the internet, expressing a desire to avoid having the same thing happen with AI.

China’s booming AI industry and massive government investment in the technology have raised fears in the US and elsewhere that the nation will overtake international rivals in a fundamentally important technology. In truth, it may be possible for both the US and the Chinese economies to benefit from AI. But there may be more rivalry when it comes to influencing the spread of the technology worldwide.

“I think this is the first technology area where China has a real chance to set the rules of the game,” says Ding. [Continue reading…]

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