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China’s artificial intelligence will soon surpass the US

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ThoughtSpot Ajeet Singh
ThoughtSpot founder and
CEO Ajeet Singh.

ThoughtSpot

  • Investors and entrepreneurs say that the US may soon
    fall behind in the race to build better artificial
    intelligence.
  • While many agree that the US was a leader in the
    technology’s development, in recent years, the tables have
    turned: many say that China’s tech could surpass the US’s in
    five years or less. 

Artificial Intelligence is a complex and evolving technology. And
whichever country masters it first will own “the black box of the
future.” 

That’s how Ajeet Singh, founder of analytics software company
ThoughtSpot, thinks about AI, which is expected to  play an
increasingly important role in everyday life in the coming years.

“AI is the world’s next big inflection point,” says Singh. “It
will hugely impact human productivity, the creation of drugs, the
future of education and medicine.”

If you’re ahead on AI, he says, “that naturally means that you’ll
be ahead as a country.”

For Singh, a serial entrepreneur who has built two data-based
companies (one of
which, Nutanix, is now valued at $9  billion on the public
market),
it’s integral that the US start paying closer
attention to the development of AI in China, where he says the
technology is poised to take off.

“The future will be won or lost on this technology,” said Singh.
“I’m very concerned about the US falling behind. It’s quite
scary.”

10 years ago, it was the other way around

While the US established itself as the uncontested technological
leader in the internet’s early years, many investors and
entrepreneurs believe it could soon lose its top spot. 

Ron Cao, a partner at Shanghai-based firm Sky9 Capital, says
China has increasingly become the place to look for new trends
and innovations in the internet business. 

“What’s going on with China’s internet is a prediction of what
will happen in the US internet market,” says Cao. “10 years ago,
it was completely the other way around: China was watching the US
for cues. But over the past few years it’s shifted. What’s
happening in China is beginning to be where it’s going in the
US.”

While many experts agree that China still has yet to surpass the
US in its development of AI (in April, an Oxford University
researcher
told Axios
that he thought that China’s AI was about half as
good as that in the US), some say this won’t be the case for
long. 

AI is the next “space race”

“In the field of AI, China is neck and neck with the US,” said
Dennis Barrier, CEO of global venture firm Cathay Innovation. “I
wouldn’t say that China is ahead just yet. But it’s very true
that only a few years ago it was very far behind. You can see if
the trend continues like that, they’ll soon be ahead.”

Some industry experts reckon that China’s AI could outperform
that of the US in less than a decade. Barrier, however, believes
it will happen much sooner:
Given China’s staggering number of engineers, their indisputably
aggressive work ethic, and the country’s renewed interest in
AI,
“my personal feeling is that in two years, China will be
ahead of the US in AI,” said Barrier. “They’re set to outpace us
in the core tech that is transforming every field in the world.”

While others have
compared the race for better AI to the Cold War’s arms race,

Singh likens it to another global rivalry in innovation: “You can
think of this in terms of the Space Race,” he said. “The Space
Race uplifted the industrial skillset in the country. I think
this is quite similar in regards to staying
ahead  we’ve got to make it a national
priority.”

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