China has now eclipsed the United States in AI research
Humanity may still be years or even decades away from producing sentient artificial intelligence. But with the rise of machine learning services in our smartphones and other devices, a narrow, specialized type of AI is all the rage. And research on this branch of AI is only accelerating.
In fact, as more industries and policymakers realize the benefits of machine learning, two countries appear to be falling behind in the research race. The findings will likely have important implications for the future of AI.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, “deep learning” is a subset of the overall branch of AI known as machine learning – which basically involves the use of computer algorithms to perform pattern recognition and analysis. It’s this kind of AI that powers personal digital assistants like Google Now, for example.
The Obama administration has a new strategic plan aimed at boosting American development of artificial intelligence. What is striking is that while the United States was an early leader in deep learning research, China has effectively eclipsed them in terms of the number of papers published each year on the subject. The rate of increase is remarkably high, reflecting how China’s research priorities have pivoted in the blink of an eye.
The quality of Chinese research is also striking.
Compared to other countries, the United States and China both pay considerable attention to deep learning research. But, according to the White House, the United States does not invest enough in basic research.
“Current levels of R&D spending represent one-half to one-quarter of the level of R&D investment that would produce the optimal level of economic growth,” concludes a supplementary report released this week by the Obama administration.
The government is pushing to play a major role in AI research, and here’s why: Becoming a leader in artificial intelligence R&D puts the United States in a better position to set global standards for how AI must be used safely. When AI is poised to transform everything from labor to the environment to the future of warfare and cyber conflict, the United States could be at a disadvantage if other countries, like China, dictate the rules. conditions instead.
© 2016 The Washington Post
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