The future of AI is unclear, but one thing is certain: companies which perfect the use and implementation of AI software will become the most valuable companies in the world. This is according to Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, founder of Sinovation Ventures.
Dr. Lee joined world renowned MIT computer science researcher, Dr. Eric Brynjolfsson, and Stanford economist, Susan Athey, for a discussion at the Stanford Graduate School of Business last week. Hypernet attends these events to explore partnership opportunities, source clients and talent, and ensure that we stay on the cutting edge of research and technology developments. This event was exceptionally fruitful in each of these areas.
The conversation between these scholars was deep and insightful. Although they touched on many subjects, three points stood out:
- The field of AI is not nearly as mature as most people believe.
- China could easily overtake the US’ dominant position in AI, and technology in general.
- With AI displacing more jobs than it creates, companies will have a greater responsibility to maintain societal welfare.
The field of AI is not nearly as mature as most people believe
Both Lee and Brynjolfsson agreed that popular media outlets (and as a result, most people) have a poor understanding of where we are in terms of AI development. When people talk about AI, they are typically referring to AGI, or Artificial General Intelligence. This is the type of science-fiction AI that is capable of many tasks using different skills. Although this is where the field is heading, we are currently very far from that vision. Brynjolfsson was exceptionally antagonistic towards the idea that AI is nearing human intelligence. He views AI’s current state as an increasingly sophisticated ability to recognize patterns and predict outcomes… A far cry from humanoid robots which can think like we do.
China could easily overtake the US’ dominant position in AI, and technology in general.
Lee’s company, Sinovation ventures, has invested in over a dozen chinese unicorns, and 300 companies overall. He believes that while the US is operating at full capacity in terms of AI development, China is just getting started. Chinese companies like Alibaba, Baidu, and WeChat have enormous growth potential, given their market is 1B+ people. These companies operate very similarly to their US counterparts (Amazon, Google, and Facebook, respectively) but they manage to avoid R&D costs by copying successful business models. Furthermore, to many people’s surprise, China has more AI developers than the United States. Lee admits that all of the best programmers are in the US. But, he argues, companies don’t need the best programmers — they need a larger quantity of sufficient programmers in order to move their business forward. If this is true, then companies like Alibaba, Baidu, and WeChat may overtake their American counterparts in the next 10–20 years.
With AI displacing more jobs than it creates, companies will have a greater responsibility to maintain societal welfare.
Of course, one reason that companies are investing so heavily in AI is because it can be used to replace human workers. Although companies frequently claim that more new jobs will be created by AI, each of the panelists agreed that AI will displace many more jobs than it will create. This means that society will have to find new ways to deal with higher levels of unemployment, and the solutions may need to come from the companies themselves. This issue seemed to have the least clear solution of all the topics discussed. Ideas like low-income corporate housing, universal basic income, and heavier taxation have all been lightly explored, but until this becomes a bigger and more immediate issue, we likely won’t see companies experimenting with innovative solutions anytime soon.
Hypernet is a team of computer scientists out of Stanford University developing a groundbreaking new parallel programming model for AI applications. We are attending, hosting, and speaking at new events every month! Be sure to subscribe to our Telegram group chat and email newsletterto stay up to date with our progress.
– Your HyperTeam
Palo Alto, CA