Kai-Fu Lee Talks AI Applications and Opportunities for China at GMIC Beijing 2018

The 10th Global Mobile Internet Conference (GMIC) Beijing opened on April 26, the theme of this year’s conference is AI Genesis. Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, attended the panel discussion on “The Present and Future of AI”, where he shared his views on artificial intelligence applications and talent cultivation.

Lee named four waves of AI applications and stated that the fourth wave will bring new opportunities to China.

The first wave is the Internet AI wave. An example is each time a user uses an e-commerce app like Taobao or likes a WeChat Moment (similar to a Facebook status), data is collected by internet companies to provide users with better experiences and for their own monetization. Lee said, “The mobile internet has the largest amount of data, and it relies on user who are like lab rats to input their data and to help these internet giants to flag data. Because of the current existence of these Chinese Internet giants, the AI giants in China are mostly internet giants too.”

The second wave refers to the wave of commercialization. Whomever owns a vast amounts of data can use them for monetization purposes or to increase the company’s commercial value. For example, a bank can use user data to predict the rates of credit card fraud, loan repayment, and return on investment. Most AI companies are already in the process of commercializing data.

The third wave is the digitalization of AI. This refers to the collection of new data based on visual, auditory or other sensors to create new applications or new user experiences, including smart speakers and voice interactions. Lee believes the amount of data collected in China will surpass that of the United States after five years.

The fourth wave is automation and the autonomous trend of AI, including self-driving automobiles and drones. This wave has huge potential to transform transportation and living habits. Factories of the future will eventually be fully automatic, and shops will become unmanned as well. The potential of the fourth wave is huge.

Lee said that the four waves have brought and will bring many opportunities for China. China already excels in the field of Internet, with visual and sensor industries also developing rapidly. Although the United States still leads in more technologically advanced areas such as self-driving, China has advantages of data and supportive regulatory policies. In the future, both China and the United States will lead in the field of artificial intelligence.

Regarding the cultivation of AI expertise, Lee believes that the United States, where many colleges and universities have top quality AI programs, has the advantage over China. If China wants to build a pyramid of AI talent, then there must be a solid foundation. Recently, the Ministry of Education, Sinovation Ventures and Peking University jointly launched the International AI Training Program for Universities. According to Lee, the program will invite lecturers from China and abroad to teach specialized courses to cultivate AI talents. The program will also set up competition platforms with AI companies and popularize AI education, hoping to produce a large quantity of AI talent with the combination of online and offline trainings.

This article originally appeared in ifeng and was translated by Pandaily.