Forbes reported recently that China is on the way to being the first global superpower for AI or artificial intelligence. The nation has the most aggressive and ambitious artificial intelligence strategy of all countries and offers the most financial resources around the world for its implementation. (Forbes.com)
China is able to combine a huge amount of data with top talent, research, companies, and capital to build the best AI ecosystem on the planet.
In 2017, the State Council of the People’s Republic of China released its Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. (FLIA.org). The strategy is part of a larger ‘Made in China’ 2025 plan that is going to be linked to the digital Silk Road.
With these big AI plans, China wants to become the largest economic power in the world and offer people with enough prosperity that is guaranteed by a stable political system. Also, China wants to ensure that military, economic, and diplomatic interests are safeguarded.
AI To Protect and Enforce China’s Interests
Experts say that AI will play a key role in this. Artificial intelligence is intended to connect and upgrade all Chinese industry by 2025. AI also will produce goods and oversee companies, while providing balance to supply and demand.
Also, AI is planned to help the national government control and monitor the population. Artificial intelligence is going to be used to protect digital and military interests. It also will allow the population to live a safe and good life.
System Will Have Central Strategy But Local Implementation
China is going for a centrally controlled AI strategy with local implementation. Goals and values are set from the national government and financial resources are made available to localities. At the local level, regional administrations will compete for the new AI technology and resources.
The result, the Chinese government says, will be a national and regional administrative state that works with investors, research, and industry to build a dynamic and successful artificial intelligence ecosystem.
The implementation of this strategy will vary from region to region in China. Cities such as Shanghai and Tianjin already have billions of dollars in Venture Capital funds for AI and had entire islands and districts set up for new artificial intelligence companies, other provinces are still learning and developing their systems.
AI Can Be a Career Engine
Overall, it appears that China is doing many things right to grow an artificial intelligence infrastructure. There are resources, goals, and legal frameworks being used with local freedom to adapt, so the AI industry is growing quickly. At the same time, the national government offers incentives for politicians and administrators to assert themselves in the artificial intelligence industry, and to recommend their availability for higher-level tasks.
To make this happen, the national government is taking an analytical approach and is aware of its strengths and weaknesses. There have been hundreds of new AI professorships set up. There also have been hundreds of thousands of study places established.
China has an efficient and mature start-up ecosystem where younger AI companies are also growing. There is enough capital from the private and state sectors to establish, scale and grow artificial intelligence startups in China.
Chinese Government Demands and Promotes
New companies also get government contracts, tax breaks, and offices in artificial intelligence clusters if they want them.
China’s government also is working with well-known digital companies such as Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent. These orientations from a strategic standpoint are helped by the central government, as well as the collection and exchange of data in the companies.
So, China now has the biggest capital market for AI startups. It also is now publishing the most AI research papers and has generous data regulation. Further, it is training the most artificial intelligence talent.
However, China is not particularly diverse or creative and has few strategic partners. That is why several Chinese government agencies have been given the mandate to get talent from Europe and to build better relationships with partners in Europe.
The Social Core of China
A good example of the application and implementation of AI is what is known as the Social Core. It reflects the concept of controlling and managing society with machines rather than people.
Every nation has cultural norms, laws, social morals and social agreements. The courts, politicians, police, media, and citizens are involved in a regular dialogue, which determines what society says is right or wrong. In China, this dialogue is largely being taken over by machines. Machines are deciding what correct and incorrect behavior is.
The Social Score system collects many types of data about companies and citizens, and sorts, analyzes, interprets and implements actions based on this data.
In the real world, this means if you wait at a light that is red, you get + points. If you pay your taxes on time, you get more + points. If you play by the rules, you get more + points.
If you have a strong Social Score, you will get unsolicited benefits for good behavior. For example, you will get more efficient visa application processing and more travel freedoms. When you are dating online, your profile will get more prominence. Banks also will offer you lower interest rates. People with a higher Social Score get better job offers.
But people who run red lights, pay bills late, or criticizes the government in social media gets – or negative points. A poor Social Score reduces the chances of reproduction, making money, or being able to travel.
Is This Freedom or Security?
The scenario above is not fiction. It is already being used in some areas of China today. Also, Singapore is testing its own AI-driven societal monitoring systems with similar goals.
For Americans, the Social Score raises many questions:
- Who does the monitoring of the score? Who is importing the data? Who is training the system?
- How do you integrate the ethical debates and moral consensus of a society?
- Which authorities are monitoring this system to prevent abuse of power?
- How do you ensure privacy of people and companies?
Gathering data and establishing administrative systems to ensure freedom, protection, and security are good tools for states. But there are worries that all of this use of AI will harm civil liberties, and this is a serious matter in the US, if not in China.