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China’s AI Unicorns Can Spot Faces. Now They Need New Tricks.


December 12, 2019

The largest problem Chinese AI companies face “may be the dawning realization on investors that, although it seems promising, in most areas AI just isn’t ready for the big time,” says CSET’s Helen Toner.

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Tarun Chhabra, Senior Fellow at CSET, spoke with Axios about the asymmetry between the U.S. and Chinese approaches to funding emerging technology. “[T]he Chinese Communist Party’s whole technology worldview is driven, not merely charged, by the imperative of consolidating social control and emerging dominant in geopolitical competition,” he said.

While China enjoys a number of great universities and companies, especially in certain AI subfields, “many people remain hesitant to move to China due to the political environment, quality of life concerns & workplace issues,” says Remco Zwetsloot.

CSET’s Helen Toner, Jeff Ding, and Elsa Kania testified before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission on U.S.-China Competition in Artificial Intelligence: Policy, Industry, and Strategy.

“We can think of AI as next wave of software improvements,” suggested Helen Toner, Director of Strategy at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology. Without a clear inflection point for when AI transitions from capable software to a unique capability, many of the changes will in nature and implementation resemble software upgrades.