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China is intent on overtaking the US to lead the world in AI

中国致力于在人工智能领域超越美国,引领世界



When AlphaGo computer defeated Lee Se-dol at the mind-bendingly complex game of Go in 2016, many people hailed it as a demonstration of the power of human ingenuity and artificial intelligence.

2016年,当AlphaGo电脑在极为烧脑的围棋比赛中击败李世石时,许多人欢呼这证明了人类的聪明才智和人工智能的力量。

The significance of the match was certainly not lost on Chinese officials, who include some of the most enthusiastic players of the 3,000-year-old game of strategy. But they viewed the triumph of Google DeepMind’s AI team over the 18-times world champion in a different light: as a sign of their country’s technological vulnerability. Some described it as China’s “Sputnik moment”.

中国官员显然没有忽视这场比赛的重要性,他们拥有一些这个有3000年历史的策略游戏的最狂热粉丝。但他们从不同角度看待谷歌深度思维AI团队击败18次世界冠军:他们将其视作其国家技术弱点的一个信号。有人形容这是中国的“卫星时刻”。
(卫星时刻:卫星时刻是指前苏联在1957年发射人类首枚人造卫星,美国受到刺激,掀起科研热情,及此后数十年的科技领先。)

No one could accuse the Chinese leadership of failing to respond to the AI challenge. As a Financial Times series has shown, China is pouring money into AI research and pioneering its deployment in many areas. In some, such as the mass use of AI-enabled facial- and voice-recognition technology, it now leads the world, sometimes with disturbing implications for privacy.

没有人敢说中国领导层没有对AI挑战做出回应。正如英国《金融时报》系列报道所呈现的,中国正在AI研究领域投入大量资金,并在许多领域率先投入部署。在某些领域,比如AI面部识别和语音识别技术的大规模应用,如今已引领世界,有时还会引发对隐私的担忧。



The AI competition may be better viewed as part of a broader struggle between a decentralised democratic model and a digital authoritarian system, as outlined in Foreign Affairs this month. “Just as competition between liberal democratic, fascist and communist social systems defined much of the 20th century, so the struggle between liberal democracy and digital authoritarianism is set to define the 21st,” wrote Nicholas Wright.

正如《外交事务》本月所概括的,也许AI竞争更应该被视作“分权民主模式”与“数字威权体制”之间更广泛斗争的一部分。尼古拉斯·赖特写道:“正如自由民主主义、法西斯主义和社会体系之间的竞争定义了20世纪的绝大部分,自由民主和数字威权主义之间的斗争将定义21世纪。”

To upxe a dictum from Carl von Clausewitz for the 21st century, war is the continuation of economics by other means. The Chinese are intent on winning that war; AI is one of the key weapons in their arsenal.

修订卡尔·冯·克劳塞维茨的名言以适应21世纪——战争是“经济”(原句为“政治”)通过其他手段的继续。中国致力于赢取这场战争;AI是他们武器库中关键武器之一。

For the moment, though, the US probably retains a significant edge in AI. Jeffrey Ding, a University of Oxford researcher and author of a report on Beijing’s AI strategy, estimates that China’s current capabilities are only about half those of the US. He argues that the US boasts a clear advantage in terms of hardware design, algorithmic research and overall commercialisation of ideas, thanks to Silicon Valley’s unique ecosystem.
The one important area in which China leads the US is in the harvesting and pooling of data, often shared between notionally private companies and government agencies. One Chinese consulting group estimates that by 2030 the country will possess about 30 per cent of the world’s data, seen as the “primary means of production” for many AI programs.

不过,就当下而言,美国很可能在AI领域仍拥有显著优势。牛津大学研究员、《北京AI战略》报告的作者杰弗里·丁估计,中国目前的能力只有美国的一半左右。他认为,得益于硅谷独特的生态系统,美国在硬件设计、算法研究和创意理念的总体商业化方面拥有明显优势。中国领先美国的一个重要领域是收集、池化数据,这些数据通常在名义上的私营企业和政府机构之间共享。一家中国咨询集团估算,到2030年,中国将拥有全球约30%的数据,这被视作许多AI项目的“主要生产手段”。



Sometimes brute force technological development can prove remarkably effective.

有时靠蛮力推动的技术发展是非常有效的。