China today announced plans to become the global leader in AI research and development. It will increase government spending on core AI programs to $22 billion in the next few years, with plans to spend nearly $60 billion per year by 2025.
The announcement sends a clear message: this is the age of artificial intelligence. Reuters reports the Chinese government will soon put forth AI regulations in areas concerning safety, implementation, and control. The US issued a similar statement last year in a White House review of the future of AI.
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The US and China lead the field in both private-sector and government spending on machine-learning, though experts have said China’s deep-learning programs have over-taken US-led research in scope and volume.
Private-sector AI research has been a cash-cow for US and Chinese companies: both Microsoft and China-based Baidu saw stock market upticks after they announced a partnership on autonomous car research.
Not everyone is expressing unbridled enthusiasm, though. The US military has reservations about engaging in a game of one-upsmanship with global AI forces. US General Paul Selva expressed concerns about giving AI control over military assets, telling a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday that he’d prefer to see things remain under human direction. He did say, however:
That doesn’t mean that we don’t have to address the development of those kinds of technologies and potentially find their vulnerabilities and exploit those vulnerabilities.
The Chinese government has also expressed concerns. Premier Li Keqiang named AI a ‘strategic technology’ this year in an earlier report, and today’s notice declared:
The situation with China on national security and international competition is complex… we must take initiative to firmly grasp this new stage of development for artificial intelligence and create a new competitive edge.
This is an exciting time for technology. Another Space Race is upon us — only now it’s a sprint to see who will become the global leader in artificial intelligence.