As India aspires to replace China as the world’s factory, albeit producing somewhat high-end products, Beijing has plans of its own. By 2030, China plans to become the world leader in artificial intelligence, or AI. In a policy document released last month, the State Council declared the country planned to invest extensively to “ensure its companies, government and military leap to the front of the pack in a technology many think will one day form the basis of computing…” and “build a domestic industry worth almost $150 billion,” says a New York Times report. According to the report, the Chinese interest in AI was sparked off only recently, after Lee Se-dol, a South Korean master of the board game Go, was defeated last year by Google’s AI-based AlphaGo, which later defeated China’s Ke Jie, the world’s top ranked player of the abstract strategy game, in May. Live video coverage of that event was blocked at the last minute in China, said the NYT.
Other reports, however, say that this plan was formulated much earlier, and that the policy paper was drawn after several years of thought. As the West struggles with the ethical and moral implications of machine learning and AI, there are concerns that China might not have such scruples, and use AI to further strengthen its iron grip on the country and develop its asymmetric warfare capabilities.
However, the perennial fear that AI might start overriding human intelligence is not that far-fetched. Recently, Facebook had to shut down AI chatbots which not only used expletives, but even created their own language, which no human could decipher. And then last week, a pair of chatbots used in a message service run by Tencent, a major Chinese provider of Internet Value Added Services, were quickly taken offline after one said its dream was to travel to the US, and another said it wasn’t a huge fan of the Chinese Communist Party. Can a bot be more intelligent than the Party?