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Fostering homegrown AI talent critical

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2024-03-12 09:03
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People experience immersive AI gadgets during the Global Digital Economy Conference 2023 in Beijing on July 4. YUAN YI/FOR CHINA DAILY

As much of the world remains transfixed with emerging artificial intelligence technology, more efforts are needed to cultivate AI talent for various sectors so as to better help China seize opportunities in the evolving landscape of tech revolution and industrial transformation, said a national legislator.

Lei Jun, a deputy to the 14th National People's Congress and chairman of Chinese tech company Xiaomi Corp, said there is a global surge of interest in artificial general intelligence, or AGI technologies.

AGI refers to AI's versatility in performing multiple tasks such as writing essays, checking program bugs and sketching out business plans. This differentiates it from previous more narrow AI projects that excel in only one area. The emergence of AI chatbot ChatGPT and text-to-video generation tool Sora triggered widespread discussion regarding the rapid development of AGI.

Lei said that amid the surging demand, China lacks top-tier AI talent. To address this, he proposed key ways to ensure that China remains at the forefront of the AI revolution.

Lei called for incorporating AI literacy as part of China's nine-year compulsory education curriculum, introducing AI general knowledge courses. "This approach aims to inspire students from an early age, fostering a comprehensive understanding and practical application of AI concepts," he added.

The comments came after the Government Work Report said last week that China will step up research and development, applications of big data and AI, as well as launch an AI Plus initiative and build digital industry clusters with international competitiveness.

To cultivate top-tier talent, Lei also advocated a substantial boost in the development of AI-related programs in universities. This involves attracting renowned overseas educators and bringing industry experts into academia.

Lei called for more efforts to support large tech companies and educational institutions in cultivating talent for AI applications. He proposed incentivizing these entities to provide training programs tailored to the rapidly evolving AI landscape, and addressing the high demand for skilled professionals with practical expertise in the field.

Jerry Liu, head of China internet research at UBS, said a new computing cycle will emerge every 10 or 15 years, and generative AI will be the beginning of the next cycle.

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