"Pay my troops no mind; they're just on a fact-finding mission."

The Chinese Singularity

Dr. Hugo de Garis, the father of evolvable hardware and a redoubtable AI researcher, moved to China several years ago, and is now leading the Artificial Brain Lab at Xiamen University. He is convinced a Singularity in the vein of Vinge and Kurzweil is likely to occur later this century — and that China is the most likely place for human-level Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) and the other critical technologies underlying the Singularity to arise.

As Hugo puts it: “China has a population of 1.3 billion. The US has a population of 0.3 billion. China has averaged an economic growth rate of about 10% over the past 3 decades. The US has averaged 3%. The Chinese government is strongly committed to heavy investment into high tech. From the above premises, one can virtually prove, as in a mathematical theorem, that China in a decade or so will be in a superior position to offer top salaries (in the rich Southeastern cities) to creative, brilliant Westerners to come to China to build artificial brains — much more than will be offered by the US and Europe. With the planet‘s most creative AI researchers in China, it is then almost certain that the planet‘s first artificial intellect to be built will have Chinese characteristics.”

Pei points out that “one of China‘s major advantages is the lack of strong skepticism about AGI resulting from past failures.” The US and Japan have spent large sums on AI research in past decades with disappointing results, and as a consequence are particularly skeptical of AI relative to other research areas. China never had that experience, and is making its first serious foray into AI in an era blessed with more powerful computers and deeper knowledge of cognition and computer science. Pei also noted that the research community in China tends to favor incremental research over riskier attempts at paradigm-shifting progress. This seems to have held true in the AI field, so far: Chinese AI researchers have made important innovations in multiple areas such as fuzzy systems, genetic algorithms, machine translation and spatiotemporal logic, but haven‘t yet launched any AI revolutions.


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