Artificial Intelligence: Zhu Songchun, UCLA’s Prized AI Expert, Returns To China

September 30, 2020 | Artificial Intelligence, News
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Is it another sign of China’s overarching ambitions surrounding AI?

A statement last Friday from Peking University said Professor Zhu Songchun, the renowned computer vision expert at the University of California at Los Angeles, had returned to China to lead its Institute of Artificial Intelligence. (South China Morning Post)

Zhu, an expert in computer vision, cognitive science, and other interdisciplinary studies, is the recipient of the Marr Prize. Along with other researchers, he won the prize for the study of image parsing.

Zhu’s return could mark a reversal of the AI ‘brain drain’ that China suffers at the hands of the U.S.

About 88% of China’s AI talent choose to remain in America after completing graduate studies. This supply of high-quality AI scholars may have played a not insignificant role in solidifying the U.S.’ global lead in AI.

Zhu Songchun attracted by humanities and social sciences at Peking University

According to SCMP, Zhu is drawn to Peking University’s leadership in the social sciences and humanities.

“The development of AI could not be separate from philosophical exploration,” Zhu said to SCMP.

Interestingly, the professor conducted a study last year on how robots powered by artificial intelligence could earn the trust of humans. Supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the project showed the value of explainable AI.

“As we enter a new age of AI, and rely on data-driven machines to make decisions and recommendations, they cannot yet explain those decisions and actions to human users,” said Zhu. “This has impeded the general acceptance of AI and robotics in critical tasks.”

U.S. – China tensions

The simmering tech tensions between China and the U.S. may have triggered Zhu’s return to China.

As a fallout of the confrontation, Washington has made visa controls stricter and put Chinese researchers under the lens.

Prior to Zhu, Peking University appointed Microsoft’s former head of artificial intelligence and research, Harry Shum, to chair its academic committee at the Institute of Artificial Intelligence.

Related Story:  China’s Frightening, Orwellian Use Of AI

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