China is making significant strides in the AI space. The country recently laid out a roadmap to guide the development of Artificial Intelligence until the year 2030. China’s Minister for Science and Technology, Wan Gang had mentioned that the plan has already been drafted, and will soon be released to the public.
The plan will address issues in 4 key areas:
- The building up of AI capability,
- The application of AI technologies,
- The introduction of policies to handle the risks brought about by AI, such as job losses
- International collaboration
Wan revealed no clue about the amount of money Beijing is planning to invest towards developing AI technologies. However, during the annual meeting of China’s parliament in March, he announced that the central government would set up a special fund for research into the core technologies behind AI.
Undoubtedly, the US took an early lead in the AI space, however, AI advocates in China believe that their country has all the chances to eventually overtake its western rival in the AI domain. Moreover, China has a lot of advantages. The country has the data, the market, and the talent needed to promote growth of AI.
Various reports also suggest that the country will see its greatest economic gains globally from AI by 2030. This implies an estimated 26 percent boost to the GDP within that timeframe. That’s not all, AI technologies are expected to boost the world’s GDP by 14 per cent by 2030.
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China’s ambition in the AI space
Chinese tech giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent are rapidly fueling fundamental AI breakthroughs. These organizations have access to the vast amounts of data needed for AI training through their millions of customers. Additionally, they are injecting massive investment into technology, setting up their own AI research laboratories to develop new products.
Last year, China emerged as the world’s second biggest investor in AI enterprises, following the States. The country injected US$2.6 billion into the AI landscape. Moreover, the national development plan would see AI technology being adopted in areas including the economy, social welfare, environmental protection, and national security.
Furthermore, last year the government had promised to establish an AI market that would worth more than US$15 billion by 2018. Beijing has already invested millions into studying AI in universities and research institutes around the nation. The technology is also being applied across the full spectrum of governance.
Use cases for AI development in China
China’s most innovative city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province presents a unique case for the use of AI. The city is making use of a tiny chip in public surveillance cameras. This small innovation has helped police crack hundreds of cases and find several lost children. The intelligent chip proliferates the speed of human facial recognition.
The city of Jiaxing in Zhejiang province also began leveraging AI for general use. The traffic authorities in the city designed an AI coach in a driving school. The system not only monitors students’ driving behavior and the mistakes they make, but it also instructs them through a speaker and rates their performance. Statistics revealed that the passing rate of students who learned with the AI coach was 20 percent higher.
China’s innovation in AI space is truly prolific. Another city Nantong will put an AI judge in place to organize and analyses legal documents and materials. The AI system will perform paper work to lighten the workload for human judges. Interestingly, the AI is expected to speed up the handling of legal cases by 30 percent.
Even smaller firms aren’t missing on the opportunity to swoop into the landscape. Recently, AI robots owned by two Chinese education-tech companies attempted the math section of the nation’s toughest college examinations.
Why is China betting big on AI?
China has been touted to see the greatest economic gains from AI by 2030. This will only happen when technology accelerates global GDP growth by increasing productivity and boosting consumption. Moreover, AI technologies are expected to push global GDP by a further 14 per cent by 2030. As a result, China will see an estimated 26 percent.
Interestingly, between 2016 and 2030, labour productivity improvements would account for over half of the US$15.7 trillion in economic gains. Increased consumer demand resulting from AI-enabled product enhancements will account for the rest. The analysis clearly states AI will continue to transform lives, enterprises, and societies over the next couple of years.
Moreover, the technology powers an array of advanced applications, from facial recognition to self-driving vehicles, and will thus remain centre of attention for almost every tech company in China as they bet big on the landscape. China has already made great leaps in the development of AI. Tech giants like Baidu, Tencent Holdings and Alibaba Group have been striving harder than ever to attract top AI talent from Silicon Valley.
The future of AI development in China
These advancements are the beginning of an AI revolution. With software and hardware upgrades, newer AI machines are expected to be much faster and more human-like. Thus, the AI user experience of the future would be strikingly different from today.
However, central government dedicates its resources to help a wide range of special interests, which includes special funds that back poverty alleviation and environmental protections initiatives. This also implies expressed support for AI is unlikely to result in significant financial backing for the AI sector. Another aspect to take note here is the fact that the sector could require years before technologies are ready to be commercialized.
Moreover, concerns are also raised around the research, development, and commercialization of AI, as it involves high risk, and are usually considered long term investments. To conclude with, it’s safe to say China will enjoy an edge in this competitive field, if government can provide strong support in funding.