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Series: In the Age of AI
China Has a Plan
From fears about work and privacy to a rivalry between the U.S. and China, the series explores the promise and perils of AI. It traces a new industrial revolution that will reshape and disrupt our lives, our jobs and our world, and allow the emergence of the surveillance society.
Today, China leads the world in e-commerce and is a society that bypassed credit cards. Now shops in stores are without cashiers, where the currency is facial recognition. No country has ever moved that fast. And in a short two-and-a-half years, China's A.I. implementation really went from minimal amount to probably about 17 or 18 unicorns, that is, billion-dollar companies. The progress was powered by a new generation of ambitious young techs pouring out of Chinese universities, competing with each other for new ideas, and financed by a new cadre of Chinese venture capitalists.
More than 90% of all crashes have a human driver as the cause. So if you want to solve traffic fatalities, the best solution is driverless vehicles. It's an ambitious goal, but only possible because of the recent breakthroughs in deep learning. Artificial intelligence is one of those key pieces that has made it possible now to do driverless cars where it wasn't possible ten years ago. For computers, until very, very recently, to do even the most basic visual tasks, like seeing a picture of a person and knowing that it's a person was remarkably hard. That's obviously fundamental to being able to understand the world around you with the sensors that you have. And we've made also gigantic strides in being able to perform complex tasks.
The Future of Work
A.I. can be used in many ways that are very beneficial for society. But the current use of A.I. isn't necessarily aligned with the goals of building a better society, unfortunately. But, but we could change that. A.I. will be viewed as an age of enlightenment. Our children and their children will see A.I. as serendipity, that A.I. is here to liberate us from having to do routine jobs, and push us to do what we love, and push us to think what it means to be human. But what if humans mishandle this new power?
The Surveillance Capitalists
Everywhere you go, you generate a cloud of data. You're trailing data, everything that you do is producing data. And then there are computers looking at that data that are learning, and these computers are essentially trying to serve you better. They're trying to personalize things to you. They're trying to adapt the world to you. So on the one hand, this is great, because the world will get adapted to you without you even having to explicitly adapt it. There's also a danger, because the entities in the companies that are in control of those algorithms don't necessarily have the same goals as you, and this is where I think people need to be aware that, what's going on, so they can have more control over it.
We came into this new world thinking that we were users of social media and search engines. It didn't occur to us that social media and search engines were actually using us.
The Surveillance State
Frequent security expos feature companies like Megvii and its facial- recognition technology. They show off cameras with A.I. that can track cars, and identify individuals by face, or just by the way they walk. In China it's been projected that over 600 million cameras will be deployed by 2020. Here, they may be used to discourage jaywalking, but they also serve to remind people that the state is watching. Matching with the most advanced artificial intelligence algorithm, they can actually use this data, real-time data, to pick up a face or pick up a action.
A.I. is a technology that can be used for good and for evil. So, how do governments limit themselves in, on the one hand, using this A.I. technology and the database to maintain a safe environment for its citizens, but not to encroach on a individual's rights and privacies?
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