Is China Winning the Artificial Intelligence Race?

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To ask the question is to deliver overreaction in the answer.

The artificial intelligence race draws many comparisons to the moon race between the United States and China. But is that an overreaction, and, if so, who is winning right now?

BBC reported that U.S. leaders are afraid that China’s central government is doing all it cane to take the lead in artificial intelligence.

“China is betting on AI and investing in AI and deploying AI on a scale no other country is doing,” futurist Abishur Prakash told the BBC.

The report cites news-reading robots and AI-powered foreign relations projects as evidence of China’s power moves. The Trump administration, in turn, has raised concerns about China’s technological breakthroughs. The White House has banned American companies from doing business with several Chinese tech firms. It has tightened investment restrictions and pushed for greater accountability around intellectual property theft.

This trend has picked up, even though the U.S. comprises the bulk of international investment in the artificial intelligence space.

Will the Artificial Intelligence Race Hurt Trade?

Even though the U.S. has taken this stance, some thought leaders view the efforts as counter productive. Limiting U.S. firms from selling semiconductors – about a $49 billion export market for the country – would only push China to develop its own microchips.

Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon professor Tom Mitchell says that China already has steep competitive advantages in AI. Mitchel cites big data gains in the medical field because of the nature of government.

“In the US, we’ve had electronic medical records for over 20 years, but we still have not put together all the records in the country to run machine-learning algorithms on those,” Mitchell said. “In China, it’s a different situation. If the government decides that it’s going to have country-wide electronic medical records… then it’s going to happen.”

That said, Mitchell believes that U.S. leaders are overreacting about who needs to win the artificial intelligence race.

“The fact that China or the UK or anybody decides they want to be a leader in AI – it would be surprising if they did not. It’s not something to be reviled,” he said. “Being hard on China is an easy political sell. I think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot in a lot of ways.”

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