China's AI imperative

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 628-630
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6376.628

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China is investing massively in artificial intelligence (AI), from chips to algorithms. Last summer, China's State Council issued an ambitious policy blueprint calling for the nation to become "the world's primary AI innovation center" by 2030, by which time, it forecast, the country's AI industry could be worth $150 billion. In one of the government's latest moves to catch up with the United States, China plans to build a $2.1 billion AI technology park in Beijing's western suburbs. But China's advantages in AI go beyond government commitment. Because of its sheer size, vibrant online commerce and social networks, and scant privacy protections, the country is awash in data, the lifeblood of AI's deep learning systems. The fierce global competition has an insidious downside: China and other nations are seeking to harness AI advances for enhanced surveillance and censorship, and for military purposes.

  • * Christina Larson is a freelance journalist in Beijing.

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