One primary factor that has contributed to America’s superpower status is its capacity to engineer its own evolution through technological, economic, and social means.
Technological development has been a critical player in this evolution, from the industrial to the digital age.
The next evolutionary step is in the field of Artificial Intelligence, or “AI.”
It’s a stage wherein machines begin to think...and to communicate with one another (Internet of Things).
AI is a “force multiplier.” It multiplies our capacity to think and operate, giving us an exponentially significant edge over those who don’t have it.
Whoever dominates AI will virtually dominate the world.
And it is in this evolutionary race that China is strategically positioning itself to outrun us.
Currently, China is behind the US in AI development. They don’t have the hardware or robotic capabilities necessary to run autonomous AI algorithms.
But China does have one regulatory weakness that happens to be its most critical advantage in AI: they don’t have strict data protection laws.
This gives China free reign to develop AI technology, allowing it to expand at a capacity beyond which even the US is capable.
Take it from Dong Tao, Credit Suisse Private Banking Asia Pacific’s vice chairman for Great China:
I'm not saying Chinese companies are better than American companies; I'm not saying Chinese engineers are better than American engineers. What will make China big in AI, and big data is: China has no serious law protecting data privacy.'
What this means is that despite its current limitations, China is a formidable competitor in the Big Data arena.
According to Skymind CEO Chris Nicholson, "The U.S. is still No. 1 in research, but China is catching up quick. They believe it's their race to win. And I think it's our race to lose."
Before you make up your mind on this opinion, let’s take a look at some stats:
- Chinese students in the US comprise roughly a third of all foreign student bodies.
- This figure is double that of all other countries.
- Among all PhDs awarded in the US, ten percent go to Chinese students.
Right now, the number of Chinese engineers developing AI in the US is much greater than those in China.
This is a plus for the US, as long as those engineers remain on US soil or working for US companies.
But one significant advantage that China has over the US is its sheer numbers of internet users: 750 million users out of a total of 1.4 billion.
China is keenly aware of this advantage, and they look to exploit it to its fullest capacity. China’s State Council is looking to match America’s AI capabilities by 2020--as they see a $150 billion industry.
By 2030, their goal is to become the world’s biggest AI center.
With big data, lax data protection laws, and the largest number of online users, China’s capacity to soar in AI evolution will be virtually unmatched.
Sadly, no matter how hard the US will try to dominate the AI space, its difficult to see, especially considering its strict data regulations, how the US will match the sheer manpower, brainpower, and DataPower that China currently has at its disposal.
Remember, whoever dominates AI not only runs the world, but they also own its future.