Kai-Fu Lee, "AI Super-Powers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order." HM Harcourt: Boston, New York, 2018
In his pre-Wuhan Virus book, "Artificial Intelligence (AI) Super-Powers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order," Taiwan-born American computer scientist, Kai-Fu Lee, having spent considerable time in China, awakens the reader to a new world of dramatic changes, realignments and sociological challenges.
It is the end of the world as we know it.
And the future is already here, although the author gives us about 20 more years to see it implemented.
In Kai-Fu's opinion, the world has moved from theoretical discovery to practical applications and from the age of expertise to the age of data.
AI is the energy of the new age. Resort to artificial intelligence or be left behind!
AI is driven by deep learning. Human abilities are limited in discerning complex signs and various correlations. Machines can do a better job.
Deep learning refers to a myriad of nuances in our reaction to different situations that are processed and interpreted by machines. By using complex algorithms, machines can make decisions and predictions better than humans.
Then, the patterns of data are used for various economic activities and for financial profit.
This is exactly what is happening now in China on a massive scale. This is the future!
During the 18th and 19th centuries the world went through the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, it underwent a high-tech revolution. This century is driven by artificial intelligence!
Machines endowed with AI and human-like perceptions are already used in such fields as face and speech recognition, medical diagnosis, translations, and many others.
There are currently seven giants that dominate the world in artificial intelligence. They are four American companies — Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft — and three Chinese companies — Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.
The United States is still ahead in terms of research and innovation, but China is ahead in practical applications. For China, investing in AI is of economic importance as well as of political and geo-political significance.
China is getting ahead because the population is taking its cue from the government, which itself is controlled by the Communist Party. In addition, Beijing offers subsidies, various facilities, and sets up special zones for AI development.
All told, it has been projected that by 2030 China will become the center of AI in the world. And Beijing could transform economic development into strategic and military advantages to the detriment of America.
There are currently about 800 million people in China who have access to the internet. Accordingly, Chinese companies 'harvest' each click of the internet users, Intelligent machines interpret this huge database, and specialized companies make practical use of the data.
The result is that China is steadily getting ahead in the AI field. For one thing, their use has transformed "online actions into offline services." For example, a super app called WeChat has taken over E-commerce. With smart phones many Chinese pay their bills, shop, book appointments, sendmoney everywhere and balance their checkbooks. Paying with a smart phone is easy, quick and there is no fee and no minimum payment either.
There are many other current AI applications and prominent among them are face recognition and speech translation. Recently, the Chinese program 'iFlyTek' translated almost to perfection a speech by President Trump.
It even translated meaning, intonation, pitch, patterns and expressionsas if he had been born in a Chinese village near Beijing. (p.105).
Kai-Fu claims that "iFlyTek" has already surpassed its American competitors in this field.
All told, the future looks like a Sci-Fi movie. Based on your family habits, for example, your refrigerator will notice and will tell you what you need to buy. You will go to a supermarket riding an autonomous car that parks itself near the store. Then, you get a shopping cart that recognizes you and greets you by your name. That cart has already 'communicated' with your refrigerator and knows what you need to buy.
This technology is already here and it could become common practice very soon.
The new wave of artificial intelligence is blurring the line between the digital world of the computer and the physical world around us. From being just automated, machines are becoming autonomous.
Endowing them with human-like senses and perceptions could blur the line between humans and machines.
In about 10 years, machines could equal the intelligence of humans, and by 2045 they may surpass humans. The adoption of AI is inevitable and the process will have beneficial results as well as dire consequences. In the near future, such machines will produce material goods quickly and cheaply and will pretty much "free" man from physical labor.
Socially, however, the new era will lead to major job losses and massive inequality. Many people will be displaced, not needed, and even unwanted. That will result in social disruption and political destabilization.
Global implications will be even worse. Machines will change not only the current international political order, but they will also challenge every country internally.
As for the United States, 20% to 40% of all jobs could be lost to artificial intelligence. The author concludes: Dangerous fault lines will emerge within each country and they will possess the power to tear them apart from inside. (p. 139)
At a personal level, unemployed people with no hope of finding work would lose their meaning as human beings. People find purpose and fulfillment in their work and achievements. Loss of meaning and loss of purpose will lead to increased alcoholism, drug use, crime and a sense of personal futility.
To soften the future shock, some social scientists propose the introduction of a basic universal income for every citizen. Other sociologists condition the guaranteed income on the pledge that receiving adults will have no children. That idea, however, challenges again the very purpose of life.
In closing, the author reco,mmends a new Social Contract based on spiritual values. But given the nature of man this is a utopian idea.
What will life be like in the future? All we can say for now is the future is upon us!