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AI and new quality productive forces for all

Belunn Se

The venue of the 2024 World AI Conference in Shanghai, east China, July 4, 2024. /Xinhua
The venue of the 2024 World AI Conference in Shanghai, east China, July 4, 2024. /Xinhua

The venue of the 2024 World AI Conference in Shanghai, east China, July 4, 2024. /Xinhua

Editor's note: Belunn Se, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is a senior industry observer based in Shenzhen, China. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Global experts, government officials, entrepreneurs, academics and investors are exploring new opportunities in AI at the 2024 World Artificial Intelligence (AI) Conference and the High-Level Meeting on Global AI Governance, which kicked off in Shanghai on July 4.

Artificial general intelligence on the horizon

Currently, mainstream AI simulates human intelligent behavior through machines. While the behaviors may appear similar, the underlying principles differ from the human brain. AI development has gone through three generations: the first focused on the machine's "thinking," capable of reasoning and decision-making; the second focused on artificial neural networks; and the third on theoretical research.

Presently, AI relies heavily on models and algorithms, especially large language models (LLMs). The path from LLMs to artificial general intelligence (AGI) involves four steps: human interaction, multimodal generation, interaction with the digital world, and interaction with the physical real world. As the "scaling law" of large models becomes apparent, the dawn of AGI is gradually emerging.

In recent years, AI technology has been widely applied across various fields, from online shopping recommendations to intelligent virtual assistants, smart home to autonomous vehicles. AI can more accurately understand user needs, provide personalized services, and partially take over human labor, making our lives more convenient and efficient.

According to data released by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of June 2023, China's core AI industry scale had reached 500 billion yuan ($68.8 billion), with over 4,400 AI companies, ranking second globally after the United States. Compared with U.S. consumer-oriented large models, China's business-oriented AI is widely applied in 20 sub-sectors, including smart cities, intelligent manufacturing and smart agriculture, empowering industrial business transformation and upgrading.

Accelerating on-device AI implementation

After years of development, traditional consumer electronics devices have entered an era of stock market or slow growth. The release of ChatGPT has prompted global companies to enter the large-model field, driving a wave of hardware innovation in AI+ devices. The rapid iteration of large models and hardware optimization has reduced computing costs, promoting AI applications in smartphones and computers as well as in vehicles. This on-device AI trend both profoundly influences people's daily work, life and entertainment, promotes industrial chain iteration and drives economic development.

AI technology is also accelerating the development of autonomous driving, with on-device intelligence becoming an industry trend. It is estimated that global sales of level 3 (L3) passenger vehicles will exceed 25,000 units in 2024, and the Chinese market will have 1 million L3 passenger vehicles by 2026.

Promoting good intelligence through global AI governance

The AI era not only brings prosperity in application scenarios but also potential ethical risks. While large models create tremendous value, they also pose challenges to data security and privacy protection. Effective governance strategies are needed to balance the risks associated with the massive flow and application of data and to mitigate the potential negative impacts of this "double-edged sword" technology.

It seems that the development of AI technology currently far outpaces the establishment of AI regulatory frameworks. It is unlikely that the international community will form a single global institution to regulate all aspects of AI development. AI governance is not just a technical issue but also a social one, requiring global collaboration. A comprehensive ethical system and protection mechanism must be built and improved through technical solutions, industry and legal constraints, public education, and the close coordination of education and public policies to promote good AI development.

Technology should have no borders

Technology should benefit all without borders.But recently, OpenAI, a renowned AI research institution, announced that it would restrict application programming interface (API) access for Chinese developers starting July 9.

With this decision, OpenAI is effectively giving up the vast market of Chinese-language big data and application scenarios. It raises concerns about hindering open cooperation and exchange in global AI technology in the short term and may pose temporary challenges for China's AI developers community, but it also opens a window of opportunity for China's domestic large-model companies in the long run. They will have the chance to fill the market gap and attract developers who previously relied on OpenAI's services.

This will also encourage domestic companies to increase their research and development investments and improve their technical capabilities and service quality. Last but not least, domestic companies can take this opportunity to strengthen cooperation with other countries and regions and expand into international markets.

Visitors interact with a robot at the World Intelligence Expo 2024 in north China's Tianjin, June 22, 2024. /Xinhua
Visitors interact with a robot at the World Intelligence Expo 2024 in north China's Tianjin, June 22, 2024. /Xinhua

Visitors interact with a robot at the World Intelligence Expo 2024 in north China's Tianjin, June 22, 2024. /Xinhua

Cultivating independent innovative AI technology

In a congratulatory letter to the World Intelligence Expo 2024, a four-day event held last month in Tianjin adjacent to Beijing, Chinese President Xi Jinping said AI is an important driving force for a new round of scientific and technological revolution and industrial transformation, and will have a profound impact on global economic and social development and the progress of human civilization.

Looking back at the first three industrial revolutions, their core driving forces such as mechanical technology, electrical technology and information technology all had strong versatility and could be applied across various industries. Today, AI technology based on deep learning and large model engineering platforms also possesses strong versatility, accelerating mass industrial deployment of AI.

Since the launch of reform and opening-up in 1978, China's economic development has upgraded from labor-intensive and resource-intensive to technology-intensive scaled industrial chain integration. Typical examples include photovoltaic power generation and new energy vehicle industries, which are leading global green energy development.

We are entering an age of intense AI competition. As an important engine of new quality productive forces, the development of AI will bring revolutionary technological breakthroughs, innovative allocation of production factors, and deep industrial transformation and upgrading. The Chinese AI industry has a complete industry chain from AI chips to large model algorithms and applications, especially with an excellent pool of engineers and rich scenarios and data. Despite external uncertainties and challenges, China's AI industry remains full of hope.

The rise of domestic large model companies will not only promote China's independent innovation in AI technology but also contribute Chinese wisdom and solutions to the development of AI technology, making digital civilization benefit people around the world.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com. Follow @thouse_opinions on X, formerly Twitter, to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.)

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