China is on a potential path to lead the world in one of the most important technological advances in history. As computer-based decision making and learning machines increasingly become a human reality, a Bernstein research piece doesn’t debate the outcome but the timing of China’s global dominance. But it is how they are achieving their success, engaging in unconstrained surveillance and human cloning — that worries its leading business people, including Jack Ma.
China is projected to lead the world in artificial intelligence adoption, in part because they don't regulate it
China is a nation of dichotomies and mixed, nuanced messages. While on the one hand, the repressive regime is becoming a master at electronic surveillance and artificial intelligence used in relentlessly tracking its population, it is also the nation that has generated arguably one of the greatest business leaders of a generation.
And it is here the dichotomy is found.
Alibaba founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma sees the electronic future and wonders if the humans will benefit.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum last week, Ma knows that all advancement is a double-edged sword.
“We are very lucky because the world is in a big transformation because of technology,” he told the economic elite gathered at Davos last week, a stance consistent over time. “This new technology will create a lot of successful people, interesting careers but honestly, every new technology will create social problems. If we don’t align together, human beings are going to fight each other, because each technology revolution makes the world unbalanced.”
It is from an unbalanced perspective that Bernstein analyst David Dai looks at the Artificial Intelligence future.
China doesn't need to worry about pesky regulators or moral do-gooders as it embraces the artificial intelligence overlords
China might win the artificial intelligence future because of its lack of balance. In the United States, pesky regulators and moral do-gooders, fighting fights to protect its citizens from a horrific fate, have clamped down on specific experimentation surrounding human cloning as well as technological advances that could endanger society.
Such restraints are not a problem in China. However, a point made clear in Bernstein report under the name of “Artificial Intelligence in China: Will China lead the world in AI by 2030... or sooner?”
Why is there any doubt that China will not dominate? Much like their unbridled pursuit of capitalism has left its rivers polluted beyond historical precedent, pesky moral issues of destroying the human concept of freedom might be road kill on China’s path to digital dominance.
“Video surveillance is the first adopter of AI, and China already dominates in this space and is expected to continue to outgrow the rest of the world,” Dai politely wrote. A December 17 Wall Street Journal piece noted how a “surveillance state overwhelms daily life” in the digital prison that is Urumqi China.
Without any moral constraints, China is off and running, and it is likely to become the world leader in four primary categories: healthcare, automotive, surveillance, and automation. No doubt these technologies will have a positive impact on society, as Ma expects.
Consider the AI enabled robot “Code Blue, Paging Doctor Algorithm” outlined in the Bernstein report.
“AI can make good doctors better,” Dai crows, pointing to technology that can identify patterns with precision and comprehend data sets across previously incomprehensible mountains of information “humans can’t see.”
It is not necessarily replacing a doctor at this point, but instead augmenting the experience and enhancing the durability of the sometimes limited capabilities of the human brain.
Ultimately the AI experience is likely to move far beyond individual skills, however. It won’t just be about the computer aiding the bedside manner with immediate access to scores of data. It will move from helping individuals to assisting governments in managing entire populations.
The algorithmic future is coming – and China, for better or worse, is on the cutting edge.
"The computer will always be smarter than you are; they never forget, they never get angry," Ma said at Davos. "But computers can never be as wise a man. The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs because in the future it'll be done by machines. Service industries offer hope - but they must be done uniquely."
Let's just hope we do not face a two-front war against China and Russia anytime soon....