theatlantic | China’s rapid rise up the ranks of AI research has people taking notice. In October, the Obama White House released a “strategic plan” for AI research, which noted that the U.S. no longer leads the world in journal articles on “deep learning,” a particularly hot subset of AI research right now. The country that had overtaken the U.S.? China, of course.
It’s not just academic research. Chinese tech companies are betting on AI, too. Baidu (a Chinese search-engine company often likened to Google), Didi (often likened to Uber), and Tencent (maker of the mega-popular messaging app WeChat) have all set up their own AI research labs. With millions of customers, these companies have access to the huge amount of data that training AI to detect patterns requires.
Like the Microsofts and Googles of the world, Chinese tech companies see enormous potential in AI. It could undergird a whole set of transformative technologies in the coming decades, from facial recognition to autonomous cars.“I have a hard time thinking of an industry we cannot transform with AI,” says Andrew Ng, chief scientist at Baidu. Ng previously cofounded Coursera and Google Brain, the company’s deep learning project. Now he directs Baidu’s AI research out of Sunnyvale, California, right in Silicon Valley.