Baidu CEO: AI-Driven “New Infrastructure” and Three Stages for AI

Robin Li, co-founder and CEO of Baidu Inc., gave a keynote speech themed “New Infrastructure, The New Starting Point of Artificial Intelligence” at the third World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) cloud summit on July 9.

Li reflected upon the performance of Artificial Intelligence developed by Baidu in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and looked into the potential of AI in public health monitoring, medical diagnostic accuracy, and future infrastructure.

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In his retrospect, the LinearFold algorithm developed by Baidu has reduced the prediction time of the virus’ RNA secondary structure from 55 minutes to 27 seconds, accelerated by 120 times. LinearFold makes it possible to more quickly predict how the virus may change so as to carry out effective prevention measures and speed up development of a vaccine.

Baidu’s AI temperature screening system significantly reduced the infection risk of staff in train stations, subways, and other public places. And autonomous vehicles supported by Baidu’s Apollo autonomous driving system provided contactless food delivery and disinfecting services, greatly reducing and avoiding cross-infection.

Speaking of the prospect of AI, Li predicted that AI development will progress through three main stages, which are intelligent transformations of technology, the economy and society.

The first stage is the intelligent transformation of technology. Although the past decade witnessed the rapid iteration and innovation of algorithms, AI scientists and engineers mainly focus on concept introduction and limited application exploration, which hasn’t become a complete chain or economic phenomenon.

The second stage, as Li pointed out, is also the current phase, and Baidu stands as one of the biggest platforms that provide large-scale application scenarios for AI. In the third stage, AI will permeate from an economic aspect to wider social aspects, which marks deeper cooperation of humanity and AI as well as the beginning of a truly intelligent society.

Li compared the information superhighway pioneered by the U.S. and the “New Infrastructure” plan China is now promoting, delivering his hopes for the plan and stating that Baidu would makes its own contributions to facilitate the grand project.

At the end of the speech, Li mentioned that Baidu is China’s only AI platform company that has formed its own advantages in intelligent interaction, intelligent infrastructure, and intelligent transformation of the industry, abiding by the fundamental principle of AI empowerment. He also proposed two small targets for Baidu. One is to have Baidu Cloud deploy 5 million intelligent servers by 2030 and the other is to train 5 million AI experts in the next 5 years.

“At the present AI stage, it’s easy to feel lost or pessimistic,” Li said, expressing his concern for AI as a transformative technology. Nevertheless, he reemphasized his solid faith in the AI industry.