The race for AI dominance is heating up – is it really getting ugly?

AI dominance
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The race for AI dominance has become a real focus for companies and now countries. According to a report from CB Insights (short registration required), 1,000 AI start-ups have been acquired in the last decade by 800 mainly big tech companies.

The leader in acquisitions is Apple, which clocked up 29 deals since 2010. The rest of the ‘famous five’ were all in the race, but to a lesser extent.

Interestingly, the acquisitions were not confined to the obvious sectors. Natural language processing was a big focus in the race for AI dominance and pushed advertising and marketing to the top of the pile. This proves how programmatic advertising has become so widespread. Healthcare got a shot in the arm in the last year and a half due to the pandemic.

Most of which is predictable, and the amount of acquisition activity also points to the fact that there is a worrying shortage of AI skills out there. One more reason for the impetus in acquisitions rather than internal development.

What is less predictable and possibly more worrying is the news that China will win the race for AI dominance in the next few years and, as Nicholas Chaillan said, that dominance is a ‘done deal.’ The US, he said, is at ‘kindergarten level’ compared to China.

While Mr Chaillan is right to be worried as an ex-representative of his Government, the question for the rest of us is what China will do with this predicted AI dominance.

And that issue goes to the heart of the AI debate.

AI is simply that – artificial and intelligent (and nowhere near being human). What it is used for is dictated by who is using it and by the motives of those people.

It is already being used for both good and evil. For good, in anything from agriculture to disaster management, and from advertising to retail and education. For evil (arguably), for remote assassinations and hacking (apparently Russia leads the pack in those departments, with 55% of state-sponsored attacks, according to a report by Microsoft).

It seems that the race for AI dominance might be all but over, with our usual big tech suspects investing massive amounts but already losing ground to Chinese big tech, supported (and monitored) as they now are, by the State.

Will AI dominance give China the power to break other countries, bring down their infrastructure and become totally dominant or will that dominance bring about a better, cleaner world? After all, some of the recent initiatives by the Chinese Government include plans for better healthcare, plans to fight climate change, carbon emissions and more.

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