Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the branch of the computer system that mimics human intelligence. ‘AI Super Powers: China and Silicon Valley and the New World Order’ dwell on the analytical debate of the world of AI, its past, present, and future.
The author of the book Dr. Kai-Fu Lee is chairman and C.E.O of Sinovation Ventures that develops next-generation Chinese Tech companies. Before that, he was president of Google China, and due to his educational background in America and work experience in both Chinese and American tech giants, he presents a unique and in-depth analysis of both worlds in his book.
The book elaborates on the competitive rivalry to draw parallels between Silicon Valley in America and Zhongguancun in China. It demonstrates a survey of the persisting geostrategic environment of the world influenced by the two states that are deemed superpower, America and China. The tone of the book is as if the author is narrating the tale of Chinese success and often has a savage expression towards Silicon Valley. The book not only discusses the hardcore technology and algorithms but it also has a soft side towards the ending as Dr. Lee recollects his personal life experiences that are shaping his present approach towards AI.
This book is an attempt to educate the rest of the world how the Chinese world of AI operates. And how it manages to be so fascinating, that the reader feels like China is living in 2080, while the world is still struggling to make the ends meet in the 1900s.
It sheds light on the catalyst of Chinese success, in my opinion, that is the Chinese population and their thirst for AI innovation. China already retains a power that is its population, it was then up to the government to make it an asset or a liability. China decided to invest in its population, and convert that power into the powerhouse of superpower.
The role its population played jolted the numbers game upside down. The book mentions that China has barraged like a swarm of AI army while Silicon Valley is very particular about creating one best application instead of flooding the market. The author, hailing from China, believes in quantity over quality.
The book opens the door for a peek inside China’s mass innovation and mass entrepreneurship. The significance of cooperative role both it’s public and the local authorities have demonstrated made China a tech giant. The public proposed business ideas and the authorities delivered them through means such as discounted incubators, to breed the ideas into tech giants, overriding Silicon Valley’s fame of success.
The book sheds light on the hidden world of Chinese tech companies in Zhongguancun, a rival to Silicon Valley. It elaborates on how China got where it is and gives the answer to what China has done differently as compared to America and the rest of the world. The American perspective mocks the Chinese tech companies as ‘knockoffs’ or ‘copycats’, as they imitated the American giants such as Amazon, Facebook, Google and so on. However, the book presents the impression of how the local versions of these applications are more suited to indigenous demand.
The indigenous version of the applications became the reason behind the success of the Chinese economy in the present world. On one end it gave birth to an army of tech entrepreneurs and on the other end, it served millions of users of these applications, that made the real difference. Considering the size of the Chinese population, tech companies were confident that they will find a niche among the sea of people.
Another perspective that the books ponder upon is data that is generated from the of millions of users. The data generated from these users define consumer behavior, such as where they eat, what route they take, how much they spend, where they shop or work. AI feeds on that data science. So far, China has abundant data on its population’s behavior. That data will drive China in becoming AI efficient as compared to the rest of the world. The edge China has in terms of its population means more data that will be the powerhouse of its AI applications, which will help China define the next world order.
The book contends with the shady side of AI by exploring the dehumanizing factor. When the author predicts the future of AI world, he warns that the world will experience major joblessness as machines will take over tasks. His main worry is that AI shall exacerbate global inequality. The two superpowers will slurp the benefits of AI till its last drop, while the poor nations will be stagnated. The author does try to propose solutions to the inequality generated by AI world problems, such as a safety net income which he calls Universal Basic Income (UBI) however these it is still uncertain if solutions would ease the pain of the developing world.
Nonetheless, the book adopts an optimistic and motivational approach. It highlights all the major highs and lows of AI, what should we expect in the future and what we need to buckle ourselves for. While suggesting that AI should not supersede humans rather it should be designed to play a supportive role. The lesson he tries to preach is that human compassion and care cannot be replaced by algorithms and machines.