In Germany recently, Sören Schwertfeger finished his postdoctorate research on autonomous robots and looked ready to move to the United States or Europe where AI (artificial intelligence) was established and pioneered. However, Mr. Schwertfeger went to China. He said that one could not have started a lab like his anywhere else.
China seems to be overthrowing the US in AI tech
According to recent report by the New York Times, the balance of power in technology is shifting. The news site noted, “China, which for years watched enviously as the West invented the software and the chips powering today’s digital age, has become a major player in artificial intelligence, what some think may be the most important technology of the future.” According to experts, the country China is only a step behind America.
The private companies of China are pushing deeply into the AI field as well and the line between the private and government companies in the country sometime fades. Baidu – which is also called the Google of China – is a pioneer in AI related fields like speech recognition. The Chinese company started a joint company-government laboratory this year partly run by academics who used to work on research into Chinese military robots previously.
Beijing is supporting the artificial intelligence push as well with large amounts of money. According to two professors who consulted with the government on the plan, China is already setting up a new multibillion-dollar initiative to fund academic research, startups and moonshot projects. The country has spent billions on research and development.
It is a race in the new generation of computing: James Lewis
James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies said, “It’s a race in the new generation of computing. The difference is that China seems to think it’s a race and America doesn’t.” Currently, Mr. Schwertfeger is working on his most recent space detection and scanning robot.
The NYT notes that money mattered for Mr. Schwertfeger as he received a grant that was six times more than what he might have received in the US or Europe. The large sum of money allowed him to set up a full artificial intelligence lab, with a group of Ph.D. students, a technician and an assistant. He said, “It’s almost impossible for assistant professors to get this much money. The research funding is shrinking in the U.S. and Europe. But it is definitely expanding in China.”