China is Beating Us at Our Own AI Game = Not Good for Your Grandkids

Don't think a cold war can't happen again, we are already on our way. For those of us who don't remember the cold war in 1945, hindsight has shown it wasn’t inevitable. The United States and Soviet Union had been allies during World War II, but then a series of choices and circumstances over a 5-year period set the conflict on its self-perpetuating track.

A new article in the November issue of Wired called "The AI Cold War That Threatens Us All" by Nicholas Thompson and Ian Bremmer is a MUST READ. For all of us. If not for you, then for your future children or your grandchildren. The article is more than 5000 words, you can still do it. AI is artificial intelligence.

Even though it's become a joke to think Mr. President Donald Trump will take 30 minutes to read anything, he must - or have Ivanka read it to you, this is of interest to her STEM initiative as well. Members of the Congress, this is your job, to read articles like this one so you can understand the severity of "a new cold war arms race over artificial intelligence (AI)." If you don't understand something, email me ( and I will explain it to you. Here's a paraphrased summary:

In the spring of 2016, an artificial intelligence system called AlphaGo defeated a world champion Go player. The Chinese were perplexed because most Americans were unfamiliar with the ancient game Asian Go, and the technology that emerged victorious was even more foreign: a form of artificial intelligence called machine learning, which uses large data sets to train a computer to recognize patterns and make its own strategic choices.

At the time, Obama’s science and technology policy advisers cheered it and saw it as a win for technology; the next day the rest of the White House forgot about it. In China, however, 280 million people watched AlphaGo win and what mattered was that a machine owned by a California company had conquered a game invented more than 2,500 years ago in Asia.

In spring of 2017, AlphaGo triumphed again, this time over a Chinese Go master ranked at the top of the world. This prompted China to act fast: By October 2017, you may remember seeing China’s president, Xi Jinping, standing in front of red banners and his fellow party members laying out his plans for the party’s future. What many don't realize is that he specifically named artificial intelligence, big data, and the internet as core technologies that will help transform China into an advanced industrial economy.

After President Trump took office, the earlier AI reports were archived, and --I can't believe I'm even writing this, he should be ashamed of himself-- in March 2017, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the idea of humans losing jobs because of AI was not even on his radar screen and that it might be a threat in 50 to 100 more years(!) There's a NetLingo word for that: ID10T. That same year, China committed itself to building a $150 billion AI industry by 2030 (that's 12 years from now).

According to the Wired article, what’s at stake is not just the technological dominance of the United States, it's that the arc of the digital revolution is starting to bend toward tyranny, and one of the only ways to stop it is to keep developing our own AI technology and partner with China on joint AI research and corporations. Yeah right, like that is going to happen. Well it's worth trying, and the only possible way is to learn from our mistakes.

It was never inevitable that the digital revolution would inherently favor democracy. Over the past several years we've seen the crisis of democracy unfold throughout the world and even though it has many causes, social media platforms seem like the prime culprit. Social media has amplified everyone’s worst instincts. Rather than cheering for the way social platforms spread democracy, the authors are busy assessing the extent they corrode it.

Back in China, government officials watched the Arab Spring and other uprisings with unease. Beijing already had the world’s most sophisticated internet "control" system, which could dynamically block a huge swath of foreign web domains, and now The Great Firewall can turn off internet access in zones within cities. In fact, China recently censored, I mean "digitally walled off" the entire province of Xinjiang after violent protests there spread via the internet.

Even Vladimir Putin, a tech pioneer when it comes to cyberwar and spreading disinformation, said the one who becomes the leader in the AI sphere will be the ruler of the world. And Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, has compared artificial intelligence to the discovery of electricity or fire. Yeah, it's that big and it's that important, and AI is just one component to China's advancing technology.

So, the world can commit to America's technology or to China's. The old silk road is being strung with Chinese fiber-optic cables and we're seeing more countries commit to China including Pakistan and huge swaths of Africa. In May 2018, about six months after Zimbabwe got rid of the despot Robert Mugabe, the new government announced that it was partnering with a Chinese company to build an AI and facial-recognition system: Zimbabwe gets to expand its surveillance state; China gets money, influence, and data.

The Wired article aptly states that for the past century, democracies have proven more resilient and successful than dictatorships, even if democracies have made stupid decisions along the way. Well Congress, we cannot make stupid decisions about AI and our relationship with China during the next 5-years. But there is nothing close to a serious debate as to how to address this and so far, you're not doing too great with China. Please read the full article in Wired "The AI Cold War That Threatens Us All" by Nicholas Thompson and Ian Bremmer here:

- Erin Jansen, Internet Specialist, Social Psychologist, Founder of
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