Google Puts Female Scientists in Charge of New AI China Center in Beijing

Fei-fei Li, chief scientist of Google Cloud’s artificial intelligence and machine learning team, announced the Google AI China Center was established in Beijing at a Google Developer Day event in Shanghai. Li and her student Jia Li, head of research and development at Google Cloud, will lead the center and be responsible for its research, as well as coordinating the work of Google Cloud AI, Google Brain and the local team.

“We want to work together in China and cherish the opportunity to work with top talent,” Fei-fei Li said.

“When I was growing up, I heard people quoting Napoleon’s famous words many times. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that China is a sleeping lion and when China wakes up, the world will shake,” she said.

In the AI world, China has already awoken to become a world leader, she said. “In fact, I have seen first-hand on several trips to China this year that China is at the forefront of AI research, entrepreneurship, industrial development and government support,” Fei-fei Li said.

“Today, I return to China with my team, hoping to begin our long and honest work to create the future. Still, I believe the science of AI has no borders. Neither do its benefits,” she said.

Speaking of Google AI lab’s planning, Fei-fei Li said Google has always put AI first, and was one of the first companies to put effort into AI development. She said she started planning and pushing forward the business after she began working at Google in January. She offered to launch basic AI research in China when brainstorming with the CEOs of Google and Google Cloud.

Fei-fei Li told Sina Technology her small goal is to do a good job on the first step. “We have just started and the most important thing is to do the best research, to be the best partner and to study, listen and work together,” she said.

As for whether she will work in China after the establishment of Google AI China Center, Fei-fei Li said she would often fly back to China on business.

Fei-fei Li, and Jia Li said they are recruiting researchers and engineers for the Google AI China Center. All interviews will be conducted in the United States. Prospective employees in China will have to apply for a visa and fly to the United States for an interview.

Fei-fei Li is an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University. She works at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SAIL), Stanford Visual Laboratory and Toyota-Stanford Center for Research in Artificial Intelligence. She specializes in computer vision and cognitive neuroscience, and is now chief scientist for Google Cloud artificial intelligence and machine learning.

In November 2016, Fei-fei Li and Jia Li joined Google and took charge of the Google Cloud AI and machine learning.

Jia Li

Before this, Jia Li, famous in Silicon Valley for her innovations in the fields of computer vision, machine learning, artificial intelligence, mobile vision, e-commerce, product recommendations and image search, was also a Snapchat developer. In 2016, she was named by Business Insider as one of the “mysterious forces leading Snapchat.”

A transcript of Fei-fei Li’s speech follows:

Hi, I’m Fei-fei Li. I’m a professor of artificial intelligence, a scientist and an education worker. I’m also the chief scientist at Google Cloud. What was mentioned was that we should stay true to the original, and I totally agree with that. My scientific path derives from where I was born: China. So, I’m very honored to be here. I am also happy to share my favorite topic today: how artificial intelligence and science can make human life better.

We are in a historic era. Thanks to the rapid development of computational science and digitalization, human society is undergoing a dramatic transformation. Some people call it a fourth industrial revolution. As a researcher in machine learning and computer vision, I have been fortunate to witness tremendous changes in this field. In just a few years, the automatic classification of pictures, such as face recognition and target tracking, has become a standard feature. We also see that natural language, as an interactive approach, is being widely used, such as with voice assistants like Google Home. What’s more, we have witnessed rapid advancement in self-driving technology, which may fundamentally change the future of transportation and the way humans live. It is not hard to imagine that these changes will continue to deepen and develop, and its impact will be even more profound.

Throughout the history of human civilization, previous changes have taken decades and centuries to complete. AI has been developing at an unprecedented pace. Although some achievements have already been made, AI is still a relatively young research field. Its research history dates back to the middle of the last century, but many breakthroughs were made in past dozen years. I really think the most transformative research remains to be discovered. And this reminds me every day that I should research with humility and modesty so as to meet the great challenge. The present era is unprecedented. I believe AI’s future will be determined by the developments of the next few years.

I agree with Google’s vision for AI, which is we are all optimistic that AI can change the world. I also believe that this change must be shaped by industry, academia and the global community. In the end, AI should be everyone’s AI, instead of exclusively owned by some school, company or country.

For example, AI is likely to fundamentally change the health industry, from remote villages to noisy metropolises. But for this enormous challenge, it requires a wide range of collaborative efforts to effectively address this issue. Most importantly, the technology should be available to all. This is my own philosophy, “the science of AI has no borders. Neither do its benefits.”

In AI research and development, breakthroughs in Silicon Valley, Shanghai or anywhere else, could all make life better. That is why I joined the team at Google Cloud. I am excited about cloud technology. No other computing platform can be so effective, with such powerful computation ability and new technology. In many ways, AI’s push for many industries will continue to depend on the power of the cloud.

Google, as a global company, has done a lot of work in this direction. We have a strong in-house team, working with many AI LABS around the world, and collaborators. We support the development of the AI community by sponsoring AI conferences and forums, and work with more than 1,400 researchers around the world in AI research. But we still have a lot to do and to learn. It’s not just a technical challenge, it’s a cultural challenge.

Like human society, intelligent algorithms are most effective when it comes to understanding the widest range of human needs.

Speaking of this, I would like to announce some exciting news: the Google AI China Center was officially established today.

The center is in Beijing and is made up of a group of the best AI research institutes. Dr. Jia Li, head of research and development at Google, and I will lead the center. The center works closely with Google Cloud, Google Brain and local Chinese teams.

A road of a thousand miles begins with one step. We hope that this will be the first step in our commitment to long-term research and development cooperation in China.

After the main venue opens, invited students and young researchers will have the opportunity to communicate with our research team face-to-face.

Google AI China Center focuses on basic AI research. At the same time, it will establish sustainable cooperation with the Chinese academia. Apart from publishing research results, we are looking forward to cooperating with domestic researchers and providing high quality education on AI and machine learning for more students and researchers. We cherish the opportunity to cooperate with top AI talents in China, who are also the top AI talents in the world.

In the past few decades, China has demonstrated its incredible capacity for development and has become the world’s second largest economy. As the most populous country with a long history, China could represent human experience and wisdom in the cultural, historical and even technological fields. It also makes China an extremely important part of future AI development.

China is also my homeland. I was born here and grew up here. Many family members, friends and colleagues are living here, and my heart is always attached here.

When I grew up, I heard people quoting Napoleon’s famous words for many times. Napoleon Bonaparte once said that China “is a sleeping lion and when China wakes up, the world will shake.” In the AI world, China has already woken up and has quickly become one of the leaders. In fact, I have seen firsthand that China is at the forefront of AI basic research, entrepreneurship, industrial development and government support in several trips to China this year.

Let me give you an example. I keep a watchful eye on the ImageNet Challenge, which has attracted attention from the AI field. The champions of 2015, 2016 and 2017 all came from China. Kaggle is the world’s largest data science and machine learning developer community, and part of the Google Cloud. Chinese developers have quickly become the third largest contributor to Kaggle. Of the Top 1,000 contributors to the platform, 65 are Chinese.

China has also made great achievements in the academic field of AI. In 2015, 138 papers published by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) were written by Chinese authors. In fact, 43 percent of the total number of published articles in the top 100 artificial intelligence journals in 2015 were written by Chinese researchers. When organizers of this year’s AAAI found that the planned meeting had “collided” with China’s Spring Festival, they even rescheduled the meeting time.

In my own AI career, as an AI professor and Google Cloud’s chief scientist, I have worked with many Chinese students and researchers. And I am quite honored. It is no exaggeration to say that without their outstanding contributions I wouldn’t have achieved what I have today.

Now is a defining moment in history when technology begins to shape human life in a profound way at an unprecedented scale, and the challenge needs to be dealt with, with awe and humility. But above all, it requires global and genuine effort to ensure that future AI can truly benefit everyone. Google’s AI China Center is a small contributor to this goal. My team and I return to China today, hoping to start a long-term and sincere cooperation. We will listen to each other, learn from each other and create the future together.

The science of AI has no borders. Neither do its benefits.

Thank you.

This article originally appeared in Sina Technology and was translated by Pandaily.