AI is already here and to be more prevalent in 2019: report

AI is already here and to be more prevalent in 2019: report
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the most important tech development in our lifetimes and represents “the next era of computing,” according to the “2019 Emerging Tech Trends” report published by The Future Today Institute.
 
Contrary to what people might think. AI is not something that will arrive someday in the future. AI is already here. It just didn’t show up the way we expected, says the report. “It connects to everything else we do in business, governing and everyday life.”
 
“This moment in time is akin to the few decades when the steam engine gave rise to the Industrial Revolution, and Edison and Westinghouse brought electricity into our homes, offices, schools and factories. For us, AI is that new electricity, but it is our personal data that is generating the current.”
 
Nine big tech companies – six American and three Chinese – are overwhelmingly responsible for the future of AI. They are Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, IBM and Facebook in the U.S. and Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent in China.
 
These nine companies are responsible for the majority of research, funding, government involvement and consumer-grade applications. The “Big Nine” are also responsible for mergers and acquisitions, funding AI startups and supporting the next generation of developers.
 
U.S. and Chinese governments have different approaches to cultivate their AI expertise. While Washington effectively outsourced R&D to the commercial and sector, Beijing effectively influenced Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba, and “China is quickly laying the groundwork to become the world’s unchallenged AI hegemon,” says the report.

China takes the lead 

Alibaba will invest US$15 billion into AI research over the next three years, planting research centers in seven cities worldwide, including San Mateo, Calif., and Bellevue, Wash.
 
Baidu established an AI research center in the Silicon Valley, while Tencent began hunting for American talent when it opened an AI lab in Seattle last year.
 
China-based AI startups now account for 48% of all investment globally. In April 2018, SenseTime earned a US$4.5 billion valuation, making it the world’s most valuable AI startup at that time. Meanwhile, Chinese researchers hold five times the number of AI-related patents compared to their counterparts in the US.
 
China’s massive population of nearly 1.4 billion offers researchers and startups there command of what may be the most valuable natural resource in the field of AI - human data - without the privacy and security restrictions common in the Western world.
 
“If data is the new oil, then China is the new OPEC,” says the report. The kind of rich data the Chinese are mining can be used to train AI to detect patterns used in everything from education and manufacturing to retail and military applications.
 
The Chinese startup Megvii Face++, for instance, is pioneering faceprint technologies. Faceprints are a new form of biometric authentication that uses the unique features of human faces – bone structure, skin color and even capillaries – to identify people. Faceprints are the new fingerprints, and they’re secure enough to be used for financial transactions. They have been used by China’s police force for widespread surveillance.
 
The country is putting AI into military applications as well. The report says the People Liberation Army is equipping helicopters and jet fighters with AI. A recent test of “swarm intelligence” can automate dozens of armed drones.
 
“No other country’s government is racing towards the future with as much concentrated force and velocity as China. The country’s extraordinary investments in AI could signal big shifts in the balance of geopolitical power in the years ahead,” says the report.


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