Global Funding for AI Startups Rises, Chinese Funding Declines: Funding for AI startups globally rose to a record $27 billion in 2019, according to a new CB Insights report. The number represents a significant increase over the amounts raised globally in 2018 ($22.1 billion) and 2017 ($16.8 billion). Of the $27 billion raised, U.S. startups accounted for $17 billion, up from $13.3 billion the previous year. Chinese AI startups, on the other hand, raised only $2.9 billion in 2019, down from $4.7 billion in 2018. However, the number of deals closed in China continued to rise.
Google Announces New AI Chatbot and Benchmark: Last week, Google AI unveiled Meena, a neural net chatbot capable of more relevant conversations than previous state-of-the-art chatbots. While it’s an improvement over previous chatbots, the researchers say one of their main contributions is a benchmark for assessing the relevance of chatbot comments, known as the Sensibleness and Specificity Average. According to their calculations, Meena outperforms existing chatbots with a 79 percent SSA, as compared to 56 percent in previous models. Humans, by contrast, achieved an 86 percent SSA. The researchers also found an “automatic metric” — one that doesn’t require human judgment — in the neural model that is highly correlated with SSA. If accurate, it suggests a potential avenue for improving this component of chatbots.
Facebook Announces Near-Perfect Point-Goal Navigation: Facebook AI Research created a model, DD-PPO, that has “effectively solved” the task of point-goal navigation. In point-goal navigation, an agent must navigate from a random starting location to a specific destination in an unfamiliar environment without a map. Using only a camera, GPS and compass, DD-PPO achieved 99.9 percent success, relative to previous systems at 92 percent success. The model was trained using reinforcement learning and tested in simulated and real-world environments using the open-source robot LoCoBot. DD-PPO could have applications in both civilian and military navigation systems.
JAIC Director Shanahan Retiring: Director of the Defense Department’s Joint AI Center Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan will retire this summer after more than 35 years of service in the U.S. Air Force. Shanahan has led the JAIC since its creation in 2018 and previously oversaw Project Maven. In addition to leading in AI, he advocated for other emerging technologies, including cloud computing. The search for his replacement is ongoing.
DOJ Charges Three Academics in China-Related Cases: On January 28th, Harvard University Chemistry and Chemical Biology Department Chair Dr. Charles Lieber was arrested and charged with lying about his involvement in a Chinese talent recruitment program and illegally hiding payments of more than $1.5 million from the Chinese government. On the same day, Chinese national Yanqing Ye, a researcher at Boston University, and Zaosong Zheng, a researcher at Harvard University, were also charged with crimes related to aiding the Chinese government. The arrests come amid greater FBI scrutiny of China’s involvement with U.S. research institutions.
Bennet Criticizes White House Guidance for AI Regulation: Senator Bennet sent a letter to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios strongly critiquing the White House guidance for AI regulation released last month. In the letter, he calls the document “little more than gauzy generalities” that fail to address coordination with allies, privacy protections or civil rights. The administration’s AI-related efforts “lack the long-term vision and resources” to solidify U.S. competitiveness, Bennet says.
In Translation CSET’s translations of significant foreign language documents on AI
Chinese Media Reaction Brief:Chinese Reactions to Fall 2019 U.S. AI-Related Initiatives. Translations of Chinese media reactions to three U.S. AI-related policy initiatives in the fall of 2019: the addition of 28 Chinese organizations to the Entity List, the Defense Innovation Board AI Principles and the National Security Commission on AI Interim Report.
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