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Opinion | America’s Risky Approach to Artificial Intelligence
October 7, 2019 | The New York Times | By Tim Wu
Mr. Wu is the author of “The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.”

The brilliant 2014 science fiction novel “The Three-Body Problem,” by the Chinese writer Liu Cixin, depicts the fate of civilizations as almost entirely dependent on winning grand races to scientific milestones. Someone in China’s leadership must have read that book, for Beijing has made winning the race to artificial intelligence a national obsession, devoting billions of dollars to the cause and setting 2030 as the target year for world dominance. Not to be outdone, President Vladimir Putin of Russia recently declared that whoever masters A.I. “will become the ruler of the world.”..... if there is even a slim chance that the race to build stronger A.I. will determine the future of the world — and that does appear to be at least a possibility — the United States and the rest of the West are taking a surprisingly lackadaisical and alarmingly risky approach to the technology........The plan seems to be for the American tech industry, which makes most of its money in advertising and selling personal gadgets, to serve as champions of the West. Those businesses, it is hoped, will research, develop and disseminate the most important basic technologies of the future. Companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft are formidable entities, with great talent and resources that approximate those of small countries. But they don’t have the resources of large countries, nor do they have incentives that fully align with the public interest (JCK: that is, "business interests" vs. "public interest"]..... The history of computing research is a story not just of big corporate laboratories but also of collaboration and competition among civilian government, the military, academia and private players both big (IBM, AT&T) and small (Apple, Sun)......Some advocates of more A.I. research have called for a “Manhattan project” for A.I. — but that’s not the right model. The atomic bomb and the moon rocket were giant but discrete projects. In contrast, A.I. is a broad and vague set of scientific technologies that encompass not just recent trends in machine learning but also anything else designed to replicate or augment human cognition.....the United States government should broadly fund basic research and insist on broad dissemination..... the United States needs to support immigration laws that attract the world’s top A.I. talent. The history of breakthroughs made by start-ups also suggests the need for policies, like the enforcement of antitrust laws and the defense of net neutrality, that give small players a chance.... the computer scientist and entrepreneur Kai-Fu Lee, in his book “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” describes a race between China and Silicon Valley, as if the latter were the sum total of Western science in this area. In the future, when we look back at this period, we may come to regret the loss of a healthy balance between privately and publicly funded A.I. research in the West, and the drift of too much scientific and engineering talent into the private sector.
antitrust  ARPA  artificial_intelligence  Beijing  Bell_Labs  Big_Tech  business_interests  China  China_Rising  FAANG  high-risk  immigration  industrial_policies  Kai-Fu_Lee  Manhattan_project  publicly_funded  R&D  risks  science_fiction  Silicon_Valley  talent  Tim_Wu  Vladimir_Putin  Xerox 
october 2019 by jerryking
How does Chinese tech stack up against American tech?
Feb 15th 2018 | Economist | Schumpeter.

The Chinese venture-capital (VC) industry is booming. American visitors return from Beijing, Hangzhou and Shenzhen blown away by the entrepreneurial work ethic. Last year the government decreed that China would lead globally in artificial intelligence (AI) by 2030. The plan covers a startlingly vast range of activities, including developing smart cities and autonomous cars and setting global tech standards. Like Japanese industry in the 1960s, private Chinese firms take this “administrative guidance” seriously.

Being a global tech hegemon has been lucrative for America. Tech firms support 7m jobs at home that pay twice the average wage. Other industries benefit by using technology more actively and becoming more productive: American non-tech firms are 50% more “digitised” than European ones, says McKinsey, a consulting firm. America sets many standards, for example on the design of USB ports, or rules for content online, that the world follows. And the $180bn of foreign profits that American tech firms mint annually is a boon several times greater than the benefit of having the world’s reserve currency.

A loss of these spoils would be costly and demoralising. Is it likely? Schumpeter has compiled ten measures of tech supremacy. The approach owes much to Kai-Fu Lee of Sinovation Ventures, a Chinese VC firm. It uses figures from AllianceBernstein, Bloomberg, CB Insights, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey and includes 3,000 listed, global tech firms, 226 “unicorns”, or unlisted firms worth over $1bn, plus Huawei, a Chinese hardware giant.

The overall conclusion is that China is still behind. Using the median of the yardsticks, its tech industry is 42% as powerful as America’s. But it is catching up fast. In 2012 the figure was just 15%.......For Silicon Valley, it is time to get paranoid. Viewed from China, many of its big firms have become comfy monopolists. In the old days all American tech executives had to do to see the world’s cutting edge was to walk out the door. Now they must fly to China, too.
China  China_rising  U.S.  Silicon_Valley  Alibaba  Tencent  metrics  technical_standards  America_in_Decline?  work_ethic  complacency  Kai-Fu_Lee 
april 2018 by jerryking
Can the Tech Giants Be Stopped? -
July 14, 2017 | WSJ | By Jonathan Taplin.

Google, Facebook, Amazon and other tech behemoths are transforming the U.S. economy and labor market, with scant public debate or scrutiny. Changing course won’t be easy....."we are rushing ahead into the AI universe with almost no political or policy debate about its implications. Digital technology has become critical to the personal and economic well-being of everyone on the planet, but decisions about how it is designed, operated and developed have never been voted on by anyone. Those decisions are largely made by executives and engineers at Google, Facebook, Amazon and other leading tech companies, and imposed on the rest of us with very little regulatory scrutiny. It is time for that to change.

Who will win the AI race? The companies that are already in the forefront: Google, Facebook and Amazon. As AI venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee recently wrote in the New York Times , “A.I. is an industry in which strength begets strength: The more data you have, the better your product; the better your product, the more data you can collect; the more data you can collect, the more talent you can attract; the more talent you can attract, the better your product.”".....How did we get here? I would date the rise of the digital monopolies to August 2004, when Google raised $1.9 billion in its initial public offering......This shift has brought about a massive reallocation of revenue, with economic value moving from the creators of content to the owners of monopoly platforms. Since 2000, revenues for recorded music in the U.S. have fallen from almost $20 billion a year to less than $8 billion, according to the Recording Industry Association of America. U.S. newspaper ad revenue fell from $65.8 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2013 (the last year for which data are available). Though book publishing revenues have remained flat, this is mostly because increased children’s book sales have made up for the declining return on adult titles.....The precipitous decline in revenue for content creators has nothing to do with changing consumer preferences for their content. People are not reading less news, listening to less music, reading fewer books or watching fewer movies and TV shows. The massive growth in revenue for the digital monopolies has resulted in the massive loss of revenue for the creators of content. The two are inextricably linked......In the third quarter of 2016, companies owned by Facebook or Google took 90% of all new digital ad revenue. ....The history of Silicon Valley itself offers some guidance here. The astonishing technological revolution of the past half-century would never have occurred without the impetus of three seminal antitrust prosecutions. ....The clear historical lesson, which is waiting to be rediscovered in our own day, is that antitrust action has often served not to constrain innovation but to promote it.
Apple  Alphabet  Big_Tech  Google  Amazon  Microsoft  Facebook  artificial_intelligence  privacy  antitrust  Silicon_Valley  content  platforms  virtuous_cycles  content_creators  public_discourse  oligopolies  oversight  value_migration  regulation  innovation  seminal  no_oversight  imperceptible_threats  FAANG  backlash  Kai-Fu_Lee 
july 2017 by jerryking
Lee Kai-Fu, China's Innovation Idol
August 22, 2013 | Businessweek | By Lauren Hilgers.

“I know what I can’t say, so I don’t go over the line,” Lee says. “Of course, if you don’t push the line sometimes, the line will never change.” He says censorship is not his overriding concern. His chief goal is to get Chinese entrepreneurs to think creatively. He insists that incremental innovations will open more doors and, over time, change more people’s thinking. Other innovation watchers, such as Segal at the Council on Foreign Relations, doubt that the formula will work outside China’s domestic market. “Some companies are managing to get close enough to the line and managing to innovate. When they move abroad, however, there will be more competition and increasing demand for transparency and good corporate governance,” Segal says. “The barriers are incredibly high.”
CFR  China  creativity  entrepreneur  innovation  incrementalism  Kai-Fu_Lee 
september 2013 by jerryking
Hard Choices: Betting on China's Startups
July 8, 2010 | BusinessWeek | Kai-Fu Lee, the founding
president of Google China talks about leaving fertile Silicon Valley to
invest in promising new Chinese companies. As told to Diane Brady
China  start_ups  silicon_valley  innovation  venture_capital  Google  hard_choices  Kai-Fu_Lee 
september 2010 by jerryking

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