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China is leading way with global AI revolution in full swing

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-08-18 14:50

China is leading way with global AI revolution in full swing

Visitors watch a robot dance at the 3E-Beijing International Consumer Electronics Expo, July 8. [Photo/VCG]

SYDNEY - Around the world, the shift toward a more autonomous future has been heralded by some as the harbinger of end times, while others are adamant that the sentient computer-driven revolution will usher in a new era of technological progress - the likes of which have never been seen in human history, let alone imagined.

As countries and companies race to be at the forefront of this new technological sector of discovery, one scientist believes that China is extremely well-placed to benefit from the exciting future that artificial intelligence (AI) has to offer the world.

Toby Walsh, a professor of artificial intelligence at Australia's University of New South Wales, spoke to Xinhua recently at his fully purposed robot lab on campus that with the current shift toward a consumption-driven economy, the stage is set for China to benefit immensely from the AI revolution.

"China is making a very sensible bet here on AI. It is very well placed to take advantage of the coming AI revolution. It has a lot of data, it has lots of big tech companies which are well positioned to develop," Walsh said.

"It is making very strong bets in this area, so I imagine that China is going to do very well out of this revolution."

China's State Council has announced the Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Plan that will see China take steps to become a global innovation center in this field.

AI has already begun to manifest itself in ways which most people do not realize, and Walsh said that it has been happening as a gradual process and will continue to do so, albeit at a somewhat faster pace as the technology improves and develops.

"AI is becoming more and more widespread in our lives, people don't realize it's there. Every time you speak to your smartphone, every time you get a product recommendation, every time you use the satellite navigation system in your car, you are using a bit of AI," Walsh said.

"Eventually it will become like electricity, it will be everywhere. In every room, in every car, in every device, we will be using AI - it will be the operating system of the future."

China's role in the AI sphere is also comforting to Walsh, who said that he feels worried that the benefits of the rapid advancements in technology that will be made will potentially be too isolated as they are often "winner take all markets" driven by the network effects of the technology.

"There's only one search engine on the planet - Google - outside of China. There's only one social media network on the planet - Facebook - outside of China. There's only one twitter like service, messaging service, on the planet - Twitter - outside of China," Walsh said.

"The reason that China has had the good sense to protect their own market is that they then have some competition, and if we don't do enough there will be so much power, so much wealth, concentrated into the hands of a few corporations, that they will be wealthier than countries, and they are not answerable like countries - to the people."

As China continues to make rapid advancements in the AI field and continues to invest heavily into the research and development aspect of this emerging technology, recent studies show that China is poised to become and possibly surpass all others in the pursuit of AI technological eminence.

These studies, such as a recent McKinsey Global Institute report that suggested within that not only will China be able to deploy AI technology successfully due to its "wide range of industries proving a fertile market for deployment," but also could potentially broaden the scope from the domestic level to a more international approach.

"Artificial intelligence has the potential to fundamentally shape our society for many decades to come. It is a uniquely powerful tool that China can deploy to boost its productivity and maintain its growth trajectory," the report said.

"The technology industry is becoming increasingly global. China has the capability and opportunity to lead international collaboration in the development and governance of AI, ensuring that this breakthrough technology will positively contribute to the general welfare of all humanity."

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