Chinese Artificial Intelligence Only Half as Good as U.S.


A new report by an Oxford University Academic, Jeffrey Ding, finds that despite massive investment by the government of China in Artificial Intelligence, the country’s capabilities are only about half as good as that of the U.S.

The study found that China trails the U.S. in every metric used to measure Artificial Intelligence technology except access to data. But, as Ding points out, “China’s data protectionism favors Chinese AI companies in accessing data from China’s large domestic market but it also detracts from cross-border pooling of data.”

In other words, because of China’s large domestic market, it has access to more raw data, but because it is all Chinese data, it is narrower in scope.

China pledged RMB 1 trillion (about $151 billion) of investment in the core AI industry by 2030 and RMB 10 trillion ($1.5 trillion) for related industries. That decision came on the heels of Google’s DeepMind beating Lee Sedol in Go in March 2016.

Go is a Chinese board game akin to chess, and Sedol is widely considered to be the best player of the last decade. Google’s flagship AI technology mastering the ancient Chinese strategy game was considered a “Sputnik moment” for the Chinese government. It caused them to rethink their AI strategy.

A year later the government issued a “New Generation AI Development Plan” signaling a prioritization of China’s AI research and development.”

According to Ding, the U.S. has a talent pool of 78,000 researchers, which is double the number of researches China has – 39,000. The U.S. also benefits from a large number of world-class universities for AI research. This means not just a larger number of researchers, but a larger number of researchers who have participated in, and led, AI projects. That results in more overall expertise in the field.

The number of U.S. AI researchers who have more than ten years of work experience is 50%. That number is 25% in China.

The U.S. also sports a more robust AI private sector. Of all the AI companies in the world (2,542 as of June 2017), 42% of them are American. Only 23% of them are Chinese. The U.S.’ better developed commercial ecosystem has led to greater investment in R&D and therefore greater technological advancements.

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