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US Playing Catch Up On Artificial Intelligence As Biggest Rival Seizes Top Spot

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Artificial intelligence, or “AI,” is the current direction of technological innovation, but if the U.S. does not step up its game, another world power may lead the future.

China currently surpasses the U.S. in AI research, according to the Washington Post. The number of journal articles mentioning “deep learning” or “deep neural networks” produced by China exceeds the number published about similar technological advances by the U.S. The same is true for cited publications, reveals a National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) report. The report’s findings indicate that not only is China doing more AI research, but they are having a greater influence on this growing field.

Chinese venture capitalists and tech giants like Baidu, a company commonly referred to as China’s Google, is investing heavily in AI. For Baidu, major projects include driverless vehicles, search engine optimization, and improved speech recognition software. Last year, Baidu spent $1.5 billion on research and development, with a focus on AI advancements, reports the Wall Street Journal. Baidu was ranked No. 2. on MIT’s list of the world’s 50 smartest companies, just after Amazon.

China is actively working to surpass the U.S. and become a global leader in AI technology. “If we don’t stand up to the challenge, we may have to use American technology in the future,” Cheng Wei, the founder and chief executive of ride-sharing company Didi Chuxing, the company that ousted Uber from China in August, said in a speech in May.

“China is poised to be a leader in AI because of its great reserve in AI talent, excellent engineering education, and massive market for AI adoption,” Kai-Fu Lee, a former Microsoft and Google executive who now serves as a chief executive for Sinovation Ventures, told the Wall Street Journal. Sinovation has invested around $100 million in 25 AI startups over the past three years.

A major advantage for China is its 700 million internet users. Due to restrictions which prevent foreign internet companies like Google and Facebook from operating in China, Chinese internet and tech companies have independent access to its users, resulting in access to more data; in AI research, more data typically means better results.

To reassert American dominance in AI, the White House established the NTSC Subcommittee on Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence in May. This subcommittee created the National Artificial Intelligence Research and Development Strategic Plan, which advocates creating an environment in the U.S. that is more conducive to making advancements in AI research. Increased domestic support for AI research will aid key players like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and IBM.

The U.S. aims to once again become a clear leader in AI research because it wants to set the rules for the proper use of AI technology.

China is already considering the military applications of AI. For instance, China is looking into the development of next-generation, “fire-and-forget” cruise missiles equipped with AI.

The applications for AI are very far reaching. AI can impact everything from factories to warfare, and the mastery of this technology will give the possessing country a significant boost in global influence.

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