李开复: 警惕人工智能革命演变成科技“军备竞赛”| 金融时报专栏
China and America must shape the high-tech future together
We need a global response to the huge job displacement AI is likely
Robotic arms at work in Guangzhou, China. Artificial intelligence
undermines the age-old belief that it is work and its proceeds that
give our lives meaning © Bloomberg
This week, industry leaders from around the world gather for the
World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, China. Two important
developments point to the need for renewed efforts to enhance
global co-operation on artificial intelligence and remedies to
tackle the challenges it poses to society.
First, China has rapidly emerged as a global leader in AI with
significant combined structural advantages. These include: a vast
ocean of highly valuable data (which is critical for AI
applications); increasingly strong companies and research labs
turning out huge numbers of top AI scientists; a well-established
and explosively ambitious technology start-up ecosystem; and
genuine political will to advance the AI agenda with state support
and massive financial backing.
I expect China will lead the AI revolution together with the US.
This in itself is a new development of considerable geopolitical
importance. It will require more open-minded interactions from
other players on the world stage.
The rapid development of these technologies will enable AI to
perform many analytical or quantitative tasks much better than
humans. The success of DeepMind’s AlphaGo Zero was just the start.
Now technology similar to that which enabled it to become the
world’s best player of Go (deep learning, reinforcement learning
and so on) are underwriting loans, providing customer service,
optimising advertising campaigns and picking stocks significantly
better than human professionals. Even for more advanced tasks, such
as assembling products, recognising faces and speech, flying a
drone, even driving on a highway, AI is now becoming more
proficient than people.
Second, the fact that these accurate AI tools will be so much more
effective than humans means that a massive job displacement in the
near future will be inevitable. I believe that AI and automation
will be capable of replacing 50 per cent of current job tasks in
the next 10 to 15 years.
The implications for the way we live our lives with technology are
enormous. One casualty of this profound shift will be a work ethic
constructed around the cultivation of human virtue. AI undermines
the age-old belief that it is work, and what we do with the
proceeds of it, that gives our lives meaning.
In a world where most telemarketing, customer service, clerking,
accountancy, financial analysis will be automated, how do we ensure
that those bearing the brunt of these changes are not lost to
unemployment, depression and feelings of worthlessness? How do we
deal with the wealth gap becoming a chasm? The danger is that the
dystopian future imagined by the Chinese writer Hao Jinfang in her
science fiction short story “Folding Beijing” becomes a reality. In
Ms Hao’s tale, the Chinese capital is divided into three different
layers, for the upper, middle and lower classes.
The very idea that such a world might come to pass should
concentrate the minds of policymakers grappling with the
ramifications of AI and seeking solutions to the challenges it
We face a series of profound questions. How can we reimagine what
it means to find dignity in work and be a productive member of
society? How do we redesign our education systems to meet the needs
of future generations who will have to adapt to the demands of AI?
How do we shift wealth and provide opportunity to those left behind
by breakneck technological change? And how do we enhance the status
of the service and caring jobs which will still need to be done by
humans when AI is taking care of a range of other tasks?
These questions are so hard, and the challenges we face so vast,
that we cannot afford for the AI revolution to turn into a
technological arms race. The US and China will have to work
together to solve these common problems. They can start in Wuzhen