US uneasy about China’s rising AI power

The US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence has issued a warning to Congress about the growing power of China in the field of AI.

China has a goal of becoming the world leader in AI by 2030, with several milestones to be achieved by 2020. Concerns have escalated in the US after researchers noted significant leaps in the quality of China’s AI development. A report earlier in 2019 showed that China is overtaking the US when it comes to published AI research papers.

The shift in success has come after the Chinese government implemented some very successful retention programs. Worsening trade relations with the US have also made relocating less desirable for Chinese nationals.

Reports by the Scientific American show that China is well on its way to leading the technology race with the rise of powerful companies in new fields like computer vision and speech recognition.

The saving grace for the US could be that China still lags behind when it comes to AI hardware capabilities and core technological tools. For example, US-built deep learning platforms like TensorFlow and Caffe have become the go-to tools for AI developers worldwide, eclipsing Chinese efforts in the field.

If the current trends continue, however, China could overtake the US sooner than its 2030 target in both cited and published papers, a trend nicely illustrated on this chart by Nature.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who now serves as chairman of the Innovation Board of the US Department of Defense, has stressed that the US must invest more in AI research and strengthen talent training. He believes the US needs to find a balance between competition and cooperation with China in AI.