According to VentureBeat, more than 60 years ago, in the same day of southern Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Union sent the world’s first man-made satellite into earth orbit. The launch of Sputnik 1 triggered panic in the United States, triggering a massive investment and R & D boom that led the United States to eventually send humans to the moon.
China’s “Sputnik 1 moment” appeared in March 2016, when the AI program AlphaGo developed by DeepMind of Google AI (AI) defeated the Korean go master Li Shishi (Lee Sedol). As the New York Times reported, the victory of AlphaGo has had a profound impact on China, prompting the Chinese government to increase its investment in AI.
In July 2017, China’s State Council issued an ambitious policy blueprint for “the world’s major AI innovation center” in 2030. The goal of the plan is to expand the scale of China’s core AI industry to 150 billion yuan (US $24 billion) by 2020, and it will reach 400 billion yuan (US $63 billion) by 2025. In the United States, many people degrade the ambition of China, saying that China is just copying and often unable to make real innovations.
However, China’s embrace of AI is at a critical moment, because the US research department is losing its financial support and strategic vision under the leadership of the Trump administration, and may be defeated in the competition for hegemony in the AI field. According to data from the AAAS, the White House plans to cut science and technology research funding by 15% in 2018. This is very worrying, because the Obama Administration reported in its 2016 report that the number of papers published by China in the field of deep learning has surpassed that of the United States, while deep learning is a key branch of AI.
Just as oil drives industrialization, data is driving the development of the AI era. In order to build a powerful AI, engineers need a lot of data, and no country can produce so much data like 1 billion 400 million Chinese. China has a huge population, coupled with its active online communities, strong mobile payment tendencies and a negligible sense of privacy protection, which means that China is flooded with huge amounts of data.
These rich data information are the key lifeblood of AI. When users interact with Chinese technology giants, such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu, data will be returned by learning algorithm, so as to improve their accuracy.
Although this phenomenon is not unique to China, it is the size of China’s implementation of these actions, which means it may surpass the United States in the AI field in the future. For example, the Financial Times reported in February 2017 that in 2016, China Mobile had paid 50 times the size of the United States. The China Internet Information Center (CNNIC) estimates that the total number of Internet users is about 731 million, of which 95% have access to the Internet through mobile devices. In contrast, the Internet users in the United States are about 286 million 940 thousand, less than half of China.
As China’s expansion in the AI field is moving at a dizzying speed, its large-scale recruitment of researchers and engineers is increasingly threatening the growth of industries all over the world. In 2016, China’s Ministry of industry and information estimates that China needs an additional 5 million AI professionals to meet the needs of the industry. However, a recent survey by LinkedIn, a career search website, shows that in the field of AI, only 50 thousand people in China are engaged in AI technology related work, far behind the number of 850 thousand people in the US.
In addition, the survey also showed that half of the largest AI employers in China were American companies. Many Chinese talents stay in academia instead of entering AI field, but this situation may change, because technology giants are using high salary to attract talents from universities and research institutes. If you want to win the AI fight, Chinese companies have to compete with American tech giants like Google and Amazon.
China has the ability to combine the flourishing private sector with important state-owned resources, which allows China to quickly make a major breakthrough in the AI field. China has invested a lot of capital and political capital in the field of AI, and has made great efforts to dominate the field.
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