Google is Opening an AI Center in China

December 20, 2017 - 3 minutes read

Artificial intelligence (AI) is growing rapidly. Last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that whoever becomes the leader in AI “will become the ruler of the world.” The rest of the world seems to agree; if you’re an AI expert, working with a large tech company like Google or Amazon could net you well over six figures per year. In fact, AI is so in demand that these companies are trying to make AI that can make more AI! This AI advantage is so irresistible that Google and China are now teaming up to capitalize on it.

Google’s Long History with China

Since 2010, Google has been notably blocked in China, a communist country with strict open Internet laws. Though this lack of a popular tool affects everyone in China, Chinese tech entrepreneurs have actually flourished with little to no competition from Google. China has its own news apps, search engines, and even its own Uber-type service.

Google’s foray into China for AI marks an important milestone in technology’s history. Rather than compete against Chinese innovation in AI, Google is trying to join forces with China’s best AI experts. The AI China Center will house a small group of researchers supported by several hundred Chinese engineers.

Competing in a Foreign Nation

The Chinese government made AI a national priority in July when policymakers announced plans to develop an AI industry that generates over $60 billion annually by 2025. The push also included another goal: to become a world leader in AI by 2030.

China’s lofty ambitions aren’t unrealistic; between local competition by Alibaba, Tencent, and Baidu, Google will certainly face difficulty in attracting and retaining top-notch talent. And China’s huge population means datasets will be enormous by 2020. Large datasets exponentially increase AI’s ability to act and think like a real human being.

Innovation Has No Borders

“My job is to continue advancing AI research, recognizing that AI is a global challenge that requires global talent,” says Fei-Fei Li, the chief scientist at Google’s cloud unit. Li will lead Google’s Beijing-based AI research center.

“I believe AI and its benefits have no borders. Whether a breakthrough occurs in [the] Silicon Valley, Beijing or anywhere else, it has the potential to make everyone’s life better… As an AI-first company, this is an important part of our collective mission. And we want to work with the best AI talent, wherever that talent is, to achieve it,” Li says.

As AI app developers, we agree with Li’s sentiment. AI is a technology that we will all use and benefit from in the upcoming decades. It’s important that it remains a global effort, not all in the hands of an entire company or nation. Whether developers are from TorontoLondon, Beijing, or New York, AI can advance exponentially if we all work together.

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