According to Lee Kai-Fu, while the United States has had an advantage in number of top AI researchers, China is beginning to surge ahead in AI due to its powerful coupling of the eusurience of its entrepreneurs (Lee calls them “gladiators”) with the abundance of its data. As an attestation to his astute observation, about half of the world’s current venture capital funds as well as almost half of the AI startups are now in China.
This book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order, starts with a chapter describing Google’s AlphaGo victory in the Chinese ancient game of Go over the Chinese champion Ke Jie as China’s “Sputnik moment”. This Western technology juggernaut in the form of deep reinforcement learning awakened the Chinese leadership psyche and as a result, promulgated an AI strategy from the Chinese government to have China be the world’s leader in AI by the year 2030. While the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom are recognized as the intellectual progenitors of deep learning and the recent AI naissance, China is investing in AI heavily at a frenetic pace.
Lee Kai-Fu further states that while the United States has had a clear leading role during the age of discovery in AI, China is poised to take the lead in the very near future in this upcoming age of implementation. This new AI paradigm will deliver real-world applications of deep learning and its variations to solve problems, and China has had numerous successes in AI implementation, especially facial recognition and robotics. In addition, Lee aptly describes another transition: age of expertise to age of data. China and its wealth of data is ideally situated for this shift in AI as data (rather than esoteric algorithms from elite data scientists) become the essential element of AI. Both of the aforementioned transitions in AI favor China with its AI strengths being its entrepreneurs that outperform those in Silicon Valley and data that is the world’s envy; these relative strengths neutralize its overt AI weaknesses, research and talent.
Overall, this is a very good update on the fast-evolving AI world order, albeit US and China-centric. There are many important lessons to learn in AI applications (including healthcare) both stated and implied in this book. While not all the observations, anecdotes, and predictions are necessarily substantive in content (he tends to repeat his relatively banal assertions) nor international in scope, its many insights and discussions presage a future life with AI render this Janus-faced book by Lee Kai-Fu a very worthwhile addition to your AI bookshelf.
This book review originally appeared in AIMed Magazine issue 05, a Deep Dive on Robotic Technology & Virtual Assistants which you can access here.
Photo Credit: Photos: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Dr Anthony Chang, MD, MPH, MS, MBA
Dr Anthony Chang is the Chief Intelligence and Innovation Officer and Medical Director of the Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (MI3) at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
He is the Chairman and Founder of AIMed.