It's worrying what China is doing to rule the world with artificial intelligence

The Dragon wants to gain control over how AI develops and works in the future.

 |  5-minute read |   21-03-2018
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The world's second-largest economy, China, is en route to achieving great things in the next decade and a half. Projections suggest that by 2032, the Chinese Republic will overtake the United States and become the largest economy in the world. This is a far cry from the China of the '70s before which it was a largely agrarian society. 

After the introduction of economic reforms in 1978 by Deng Xiaoping and the reopening of Shanghai Stock Market in 1990, China evolved into an industrial powerhouse and its economy started expanding at a brisk pace, averaging growth rates of nearly 10 per cent for almost three decades. 

Though the benefits of growth in GDP did trickle down to the public as wages and subsequently living standards received a considerable bump, it was largely the Communist Party-controlled state machinery and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that enjoyed the fruits of China's meteoric growth. 

Over the decades, millions have been spent to turn the PLA into a huge force. However, with 2020 approaching, it was quickly realised that simply producing weapons and equipment to modernise the biggest armed force in the world was not going to cut it. What was needed was modernisation of a different kind, one that involved not just making China's Army the strongest in the world, but also supplementing it with a modern force: of cameras, computers and even artificial intelligence (AI).

china2-copy_032118070437.jpg[Photo courtesy: SEIC]

Mission 2030

To this effect, in July 2017, China unveiled an ambitious roadmap to become the world leader in artificial intelligence and create an industry worth $150 billion by 2030. In a carefully crafted document, China made it clear that it was out to challenge the United Sates' supremacy in the field of AI.

But more than being a challenge to US supremacy, this statement was a hint at how China is looking at AI technology to help it become the most powerful empire in the world. An empire that will not only be content with a leadership role, but one that seeks to exert supreme control over every facet of this emerging technology. 

The document thus highlighted how China not only wants to build an industry for AI but rather wants to play the role of standard setter for AI going forward. Through its efforts, it wants to gain control over how AI develops and works in the future.

How does China plan to do it?

Chinese experts have for years talked about the potential impact of AI in the future. To tap into this resource, the Chinese government has now enforced a strict plan of action under which Chinese companies going ahead will also be required to adhere to a certain set of rules to achieve the country's mission for AI domination. 

But as they adhere to state policies, they will also be rewarded by the government for playing a part in furthering what is essentially PLA's agenda. Dozens of companies, including a drone manufacturer, will gain state subsidies as they seek to become global powerhouses in the field of AI and big data.

But it doesn't end there. There are also plans of the Chinese state rolling out the world's biggest police-backed facial recognition system. A system that could theoretically act as the biggest of all big brothers, and identify and track any Chinese citizen at any time. 

Built at enormous cost, the system is touted to provide up to 90 per cent accuracy and the speed to identify 1.3 billion citizens within three seconds. This project, along with other smaller private and government-backed ones, will help the Chinese state and the PLA create important databases — whole reservoirs of information that will in turn help create algorithms and software to further the AI agenda. 

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Using AI to win wars

Even though much of the tech community and many of the world's leading governments are looking at AI as a tool to make our everyday lives easier, China, it appears, may count on AI to win wars. It is considering intelligent options and pouring in vast amounts of resources into building an unmatched fleet of drones such as the "Black Sword" and other autnomous weapons.

Earlier in the year, reports in the Chinese media claimed that the country's army had chosen 120 top specialists to work towards pushing the development of AI for military purposes. The experts were hired to work in the Chinese Academy of Military Sciences, with more than 95 per cent of them boasting of PhDs in AI.

Media reports also suggest that the PLA is looking at quantum technology to develop sophisticated equipment and weapons that can do more than just decrypt enemy codes. As per research papers, China has achieved the quantum technology to perfectly encrypt-useful signals over distances vaster than anyone has ever accomplished.

Its defence forces even have the warplane “eye in the sky”, which can detect stealth vehicles. 

What is clear from all this is that more than ever, the PLA is now pushing for a new age silent warfare. It is making AI a significant part of Chinese defence policy, one it is banking heavily on to achieve better results on the battlefield. 

Also read: Congress has exposed itself in Karnataka by playing Lingayat politics

Writer

Sushant Talwar Sushant Talwar @sushanttalwar

Tech journalist, DailyO

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