East vs. West – The Battle for Global Supremacy in AI Heats Up (The Week in AI)

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AI, diplomacy and a question of political philosophy

In an age where the traditional modes of diplomacy are open to question (see the empty desks at Trump’s state department), it’s not surprising that world powers are reconsidering their approach. The Times’s Beijing and Washington correspondents report that the Chinese Academy of Sciences is applying AI systems to assess risks to overseas investments. The systems are said to provide insight based on data from sources as diverse as satellite imagery and cocktail party chatter.

Didi Tang and Rhys Blakely’s article then leads, with the help of a Putin quote, into a discussion of the global competitiveness within AI as a transformative technology. It raises fears that the U.S. is at a disadvantage thanks to the lack of a coordinated government strategy akin to that of China. Could this be a test of economic philosophy and the efficacy of laissez-faire vs. collectivist systems in fostering innovation?

And speaking of global competition…

Proportional investment?

Thomas Macaulay at Techworld shared an interesting slideshow looking at how governments around the world plan to win in an AI arms race. It’s a neat reminder as we pat ourselves on the back for investment and innovation within the UK AI ecosystem, that this will be a highly competitive space globally. Slides 1 and 3 are where the rubber hits the road – UK’s strategy involves £1 billion in investment compared to China’s £113 billion. China has a population 20 times higher than that of the UK, but this investment differential is 113 times – that’s not great reading.

A sober and informed discourse

The Guardian’s U.S. edition shared an illuminating assessment of media hysteria surrounding AI and its negative impacts from freelance writer Oscar Schwartz. We’ve all heard this line before, but more interestingly Schwartz pivots to a bigger critique from Zachary Lipton, an assistant professor at the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University, that social media is responsible for a lot of charlatans that are cluttering the debate and puffing up the hype cycle. Lipton suggests in the article that what the public needs is thoughtful debate about the most pressing issues, not the side-shows. “There are policymakers earnestly having meetings to discuss the rights of robots when they should be talking about discrimination in algorithmic decision making. But this issue is terrestrial and sober, so not many people take an interest,” he says in Schwartz’s article.

News in Brief:

Around Whitehall:

Government kicks off Future of Mobility grand challenge

The Department for Transport and the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles kicked off the Future of Mobility challenge amidst the torpor of the summer recess. As well as publishing its call for evidence, the Government emphasised the possible benefits of autonomous vehicles in eradicating the need for city centre parking and freeing up more community space.

Women in Innovation

InnovateUK also called for entries for its Women in Innovation Awards on Wednesday. £400,000 is available in funding for eight female entrepreneurs, plus mentoring opportunities. Entries need to focus on one of the Government’s four Grand Challenges, including AI and data.

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