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AI speeds up economic development in China

Gai Keke, Yu Jing

Robots parade at the 2023 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, July 6, 2023. /CFP
Robots parade at the 2023 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, July 6, 2023. /CFP

Robots parade at the 2023 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai, July 6, 2023. /CFP

Editor's note: Gai Keke is a professor at the School of Cyberspace Science and Technology, Beijing Institute of Technology. Yu Jing is an associate professor at the Institute of Information Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences. The article reflects the authors' opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become one of the most buzzworthy and eye-catching technical terms, widely discussed among various groups of people whether they are industry practitioners or not. With one of the largest AI development teams in the world, China is playing a vital role in the AI industry. It aims to promote industry development by making more contributions.

AI development is transforming many aspects of society today. We see that the emergence of AI-generated content (AIGC) technology has changed the story dramatically. AI technology is deemed a potential technical revolution that will possibly subvert many of our current ways of doing things. For example, adopting AIGC-based applications may reconstruct relationships. The role of service representation may need to be redefined as the way humans and machines communicate has been changed.

By emphasizing the visible role of AI development, China has made great efforts to upgrade and advance AI technologies, covering areas such as policy guidance, project support, fundamental research and ecosystem development. It has been reported that China ranks first place in AI-related patent filing in 2022, according to the World Intellectual Property Indicators Report. This implies a strong scientific and technological power as well as higher levels of industrial vitality.

We believe that fundamental research in AI is one of the crucial factors for powering up national economic development, considering distinct perspectives.

First, developing effective AI-based applications provides the potential to improve business processes or even reconstruct economic structures. As mentioned, emerging AI technologies, such as AIGC, are reshaping service models due to remarkable new characteristics in human-machine interactions and knowledge retrievals. The advancement has made machines "smarter" than ever before. It also offers enormous hints for future new applications and brings "blue-ocean" opportunities.

It is observable that this wave of AI advances has accelerated the evolution of industrial upgrades. Human resource management is experiencing a transfer with redesigning labor structures and desired skills. The need for humans in basic positions will probably be eliminated in the coming years. Some job positions, once believed to be irreplaceable by machines, are encountering challenges from AIGC-based applications as well.

Even though AI is accelerating steps of replacing some human jobs, it indicates that more productivity will be released. Retraining in AI will possibly become a focus in the coming years.

Second, AI technology development itself brings great opportunities for economic growth. Heated discussions on AI development have been ongoing among those in the academic community in recent years.

Those discussions involve a few dimensions, with AI fundamental research being a principal topic. Many national-level AI labs or institutes have been founded in order to expand both research and applications, which also drives AI research and development towards a higher level of capability and adoptability. 

Infrastructure construction is another side of AI development. China has approved projects to construct eight national computing hubs as well as 10 national data center clusters, indicating a great facilitation for AI computing resources. Moreover, AI development activates new education requirements, too. Higher education, vocational education and continuing education are all within the scope of exploration for matching the requirements of developing the AI industry.

Finally, concerns about AI security and safety may introduce new opportunities.

With decades of continuous development, AI technology is knocking on the door of the full function of intelligence. For instance, facial recognition technology is being widely used for verifying individuals' identities. However, the adoption went through a long process, if we look back at its history. Meanwhile, privacy concerns are raised along with the popularization of facial recognition.

Similarly, concerns about security, safety and trust have penetrated into various aspects of people's lives or industrial operations, such as personal digital assistant safety, industrial commands security, supply chain security, privacy protections, and so on.

This phenomenon shows a clue that the security industry may have new opportunities in the future. AIGC, for example, has widened the scope of AI security and safety. Content protections have been upgraded from relatively deterministic entities to a more complex training-related environment. For individuals, privacy leakage also becomes more likely as AI is being seamlessly embedded in more scenarios and the governance of personal data collections and uses is hard. Therefore, emerging security needs may activate security companies to seek new products or service offerings.

In summary, China's continuous efforts in the field of AI industry have established the current prosperous industrial results. As a key technology, we believe that AI technology is one of the core driving forces for the high-quality and rapid development of China's economy in the future.

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