Xi jinping là ai

Xi Jinping is using artificial intelligence to enhance his government’s totalitarian control—và he’s exporting this giải pháp công nghệ lớn regimes around the globe.


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As rulers of some of the world’s largest complex social organizations, ancient Chinese emperors well understood the relationship between information flows and power, and the value of surveillance. During the 11th century, a Song-dynasty emperor realized that China’s elegant walled cities had become too numerous lớn be monitored from Beijing, so he deputized locals to lớn police them. A few decades before the digital era’s dawn, Chiang Kai-shek made use of this self-policing tradition, asking citizens to watch for dissidents in their midst, so that communist rebellions could be stamped out in their infancy. When Mao took over, he arranged cities into grids, making each square its own work unit, where local spies kept “sharp eyes” out for counterrevolutionary behavior, no matter how trivial. During the initial coronavirut outbreak, Chinese social-truyền thông media apps promoted hotlines where people could report those suspected of hiding symptoms.

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Xi has appropriated the phrase sharp eyes, with all its historical resonances, as his chosen name for the AI-powered surveillance cameras that will soon span Trung Quốc. With AI, Xi can build history’s most oppressive authoritarian apparatus, without the manpower Mao needed lớn keep information about dissent flowing khổng lồ a single, centralized node. In China’s most prominent AI start-ups—SenseTime, CloudWalk, Megvii, Hikvision, iFlytek, Meiya Pico—Xi has found willing commercial partners. And in Xinjiang’s Muslim minority, he has found his kiểm tra population.

The Chinese Communist Party has long been suspicious of religion, và not just as a result of Marxist influence. Only a century & a half ago—yesterday, in the memory of a 5,000-year-old civilization—Hong Xiuquan, a quasi-Christian mystic converted by Western missionaries, launched the Taiping Rebellion, an apocalyptic 14-year campaign that may have killed more people than the First World War. Today, in China’s single-các buổi tiệc nhỏ political system, religion is an alternative source of ultimate authority, which means it must be co-opted or destroyed.

By 2009, China’s Uighurs had become weary after decades of discrimination and land confiscation. They launched mass protests and a smattering of suicide attacks against Chinese police. In năm trước, Xi cracked down, directing Xinjiang’s provincial government khổng lồ destroy mosques và reduce Uighur neighborhoods to rubble. More than 1 million Uighurs were disappeared inkhổng lồ concentration camps. Many were tortured và made lớn perkhung slave labor.


Uighurs who were spared the camps now make up the most intensely surveilled population on Earth. Not all of the surveillance is digital. The Chinese government has moved thousands of Han Chinese “big brothers and sisters” inlớn homes in Xinjiang’s ancient Silk Road cities, to monitor Uighurs’ forced assimilation to lớn mainstream Chinese culture. They eat meals with the family, and some “big brothers” sleep in the same bed as the wives of detained Uighur men.

Meanwhile, AI-powered sensors lurk everywhere, including in Uighurs’ purses và pants pockets. According to lớn the anthropologist Darren Byler, some Uighurs buried their mobile phones containing Islamic materials, or even froze their data cards into lớn dumplings for safekeeping, when Xi’s campaign of cultural erasure reached full tilt. But police have sầu since forced them khổng lồ install nanny apps on their new phones. The apps use algorithms to hunt for “ideological viruses” day & night. They can scan chat logs for Quran verses, & look for Arabic script in memes & other image files.

< Read: Đài Loan Trung Quốc is going lớn outrageous lengths to surveil its own citizens >

Uighurs can’t use the usual work-arounds. Installing a VPN would likely invite an investigation, so they can’t download WhatsApp or any other prohibited encrypted-chat software. Purchasing prayer rugs online, storing digital copies of Muslyên books, and downloading sermons from a favorite imam are all risky activities. If a Uighur were to use WeChat’s payment system lớn make a donation lớn a mosque, authorities might take note.


The nanny apps work in tandem with the police, who spot-check phones at checkpoints, scrolling through recent calls & texts. Even an innocent digital association—being in a group text with a recent mosque attendee, for instance—could result in detention. Staying off social media altogether is no solution, because digital inactivity itself can raise suspicions. The police are required khổng lồ note when Uighurs deviate from any of their normal behavior patterns. Their database wants to lớn know if Uighurs start leaving their home through the back door instead of the front. It wants to lớn know if they spover less time talking khổng lồ neighbors than they used to lớn. Electrithành phố use is monitored by an algorithm for unusual use, which could indicate an unregistered resident.

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Jonathan Djob NkondoUighurs can travel only a few blocks before encountering a checkpoint outfitted with one of Xinjiang’s hundreds of thousands of surveillance cameras. Footage from the cameras is processed by algorithms that match faces with snapshots taken by police at “health checks.” At these checks, police extract all the data they can from Uighurs’ bodies. They measure height & take a blood sample. They record voices and swab DNA. Some Uighurs have even been forced khổng lồ participate in experiments that mine genetic data, to lớn see how DNA produces distinctly Uighurlike chins & ears. Police will likely use the pandemic as a pretext to take still more data from Uighur bodies.


Uighur women are also made to lớn endure pregnancy checks. Some are forced to lớn have abortions, or get an IUD inserted. Others are sterilized by the state. Police are known to rip unauthorized children away from their parents, who are then detained. Such measures have reduced the birthrate in some regions of Xinjiang more than 60 percent in three years.

When Uighurs reach the edge of their neighborhood, an automated system takes note. The same system tracks them as they move through smaller checkpoints, at banks, parks, và schools. When they pump gas, the system can determine whether they are the car’s owner. At the city’s perimeter, they’re forced lớn exit their cars, so their face and ID thẻ can be scanned again.

Read: Uighurs can’t escape Chinese repression, even in Europe

The lucky Uighurs who are able lớn travel abroad—many have had their passports confiscated—are advised to return quickly. If they bởi not, police interrogators are dispatched to lớn the doorsteps of their relatives and friends. Not that going abroad is any kind of escape: In a chilling glimpse at how a future authoritarian bloc might function, Xi’s strongman allies—even those in Muslim-majority countries such as Egypt—have sầu been more than happy lớn arrest & deport Uighurs baông chồng lớn the open-air prison that is Xinjiang.

Xi seems khổng lồ have used Xinjiang as a laboratory khổng lồ fine-tune the sensory & analytical powers of his new digital panoptinhỏ before expanding its reach across the mainland. CETC, the state-owned company that built much of Xinjiang’s surveillance system, now boasts of pilot projects in Zhejiang, Guangdong, and Shenzhen. These are meant to lớn lay “a robust foundation for a nationwide rollout,” according lớn the company, và they represent only one piece of China’s coalescing mega-network of human-monitoring công nghệ.


China is an ikhuyễn mãi giảm giá setting for an experiment in total surveillance. Its population is extremely online. The country is home to lớn more than 1 billion Mobile phones, all chock-full of sophisticated sensors. Each one logs search-engine queries, websites visited, và Smartphone payments, which are ubiquitous. When I used a chip-based credit card to buy coffee in Beijing’s hip Sanlitun neighborhood, people glared as if I’d written a check.

All of these data points can be time-stamped & geo-tagged. And because a new regulation requires telecom firms lớn scan the face of anyone who signs up for cellphone services, phones’ data can now be attached lớn a specific person’s face. SenseTime, which helped build Xinjiang’s surveillance state, recently bragged that its software can identify people wearing masks. Another company, Hanwang, claims that its facial-recognition giải pháp công nghệ can recognize mask wearers 95 percent of the time. China’s personal-data harvest even reaps from citizens who laông chồng phones. Out in the countryside, villagers line up khổng lồ have their faces scanned, from multiple angles, by private firms in exchange for cookware.

An authoritarian state with enough processing power could feed every blip of a citizen’s neural activity into a government database.

Until recently, it was difficult lớn imagine how Trung Quốc could integrate all of these data into lớn a single surveillance system, but no longer. In 2018, a cybersecurity activist hacked inlớn a facial-recognition system that appeared to lớn be connected khổng lồ the government và was synthesizing a surprising combination of data streams. The system was capable of detecting Uighurs by their ethnic features, và it could tell whether people’s eyes or mouth were open, whether they were smiling, whether they had a beard, và whether they were wearing sunglasses. It logged the date, time, & serial numbers—all traceable to individual users—of Wi-Fi-enabled phones that passed within its reach. It was hosted by Alibatía và made reference to lớn City Brain, an AI-powered software platsize that China’s government has tasked the company with building.


Read: China’s artificial-intelligence boom

City Brain is, as the name suggests, a kind of automated nerve center, capable of synthesizing data streams from a multitude of sensors distributed throughout an urban environment. Many of its proposed uses are benign technocratic functions. Its algorithms could, for instance, count people & cars, khổng lồ help with red-light timing & subway-line planning. Data from sensor-laden trash cans could make waste pickup more timely và efficient.

But City Brain & its successor technologies will also enable new forms of integrated surveillance. Some of these will enjoy broad public support: City Brain could be trained to lớn spot lost children, or luggage abandoned by tourists or terrorists. It could flag loiterers, or homeless people, or rioters. Anyone in any kind of danger could summon help by waving a h& in a distinctive sầu way that would be instantly recognized by ever-vigilant computer vision. Earpiece-wearing police officers could be directed lớn the scene by an AI voice assistant.

City Brain would be especially useful in a pandemic. (One of Alibaba’s sister companies created the phầm mềm that color-coded citizens’ disease risk, while silently sending their health và travel data to lớn police.) As Beijing’s outbreak spread, some malls và restaurants in the thành phố began scanning potential customers’ phones, pulling data from sản phẩm điện thoại carriers to see whether they’d recently traveled. điện thoại carriers also sent municipal governments lists of people who had come to their city from Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected. And Chinese AI companies began making networked facial-recognition helmets for police, with built-in infrared fever detectors, capable of sending data lớn the government. City Brain could automate these processes, or integrate its data streams.


Even China’s most complex AI systems are still brittle. City Brain hasn’t yet fully integrated its range of surveillance capabilities, và its ancestor systems have suffered some embarrassing performance issues: In 2018, one of the government’s AI-powered cameras mistook a face on the side of a thành phố bus for a jaywalker. But the software is getting better, & there’s no technical reason it can’t be implemented on a mass scale.

The data streams that could be fed inkhổng lồ a City Brain–lượt thích system are essentially unlimited. In addition lớn footage from the 1.9 million facial-recognition cameras that the Chinese telecom firm Đài Loan Trung Quốc Tower is installing in cooperation with SenseTime, City Brain could absorb feeds from cameras fastened lớn lampposts and hanging above sầu street corners. It could make use of the cameras that Chinese police hide in traffic cones, & those strapped khổng lồ officers, both uniformed & plainclothes. The state could force retailers to lớn provide data from in-store cameras, which can now detect the direction of your gaze across a shelf, & which could soon see around corners by reading shadows. Precious little public space would be unwatched.

America’s police departments have begun khổng lồ avail themselves of footage from Amazon’s home-security cameras. In their more innocent applications, these cameras adorn doorbells, but many are also aimed at neighbors’ houses. China’s government could harvest footage from equivalent Chinese products. They could tap the cameras attached lớn ride-nói qua cars, or the self-driving vehicles that may soon replace them: Automated vehicles will be covered in a whole host of sensors, including some that will take in information much richer than 2-D đoạn Clip. Data from a massive sầu fleet of them could be stitched together, và supplemented by other City Brain streams, khổng lồ produce a 3-D Model of the đô thị that’s updated second by second. Each refresh could log every human’s location within the Mã Sản Phẩm. Such a system would make unidentified faces a priority, perhaps by sending drone swarms to secure a positive ID.


The model’s data could be time-synced khổng lồ audio from any networked device with a microphone, including smart speakers, smartwatches, & less obvious Internet of Things devices lượt thích smart mattresses, smart diapers, and smart sex toys. All of these sources could coalesce inlớn a multitraông chồng, location-specific audio set that could be parsed by polyglot algorithms capable of interpreting words spoken in thousands of tongues. This set would be useful lớn security services, especially in places without cameras: China’s iFlytek is perfecting a giải pháp công nghệ that can recognize individuals by their “voiceprint.”

In the decades to come, City Brain or its successor systems may even be able lớn read unspoken thoughts. Drones can already be controlled by helmets that sense & transmit neural signals, & researchers are now designing brain-computer interfaces that go well beyond autofill, khổng lồ allow you to lớn type just by thinking. An authoritarian state with enough processing power could force the makers of such software lớn feed every blip of a citizen’s neural activity inlớn a government database. Trung Quốc has recently been pushing citizens to tải về and use a propagandomain authority tiện ích. The government could use emotion-tracking software lớn monitor reactions lớn a political stimulus within an ứng dụng. A silent, suppressed response to a meme or a clip from a Xi speech would be a meaningful data point khổng lồ a precog algorithm.


All of these time-synced feeds of on-the-ground data could be supplemented by footage from drones, whose gigapixel cameras can record whole cityscapes in the kind of crystalline detail that allows for license-plate reading and gait recognition. “Spy bird” drones already swoop và circle above Chinese cities, disguised as doves. City Brain’s feeds could be synthesized with data from systems in other urban areas, to size a multidimensional, real-time tài khoản of nearly all human activity within Đài Loan Trung Quốc. Server farms across China will soon be able to lớn hold multiple angles of high-definition footage of every moment of every Chinese person’s life.

“I tell my students that I hope none of them will be involved in killer robots. They have only a short time on Earth. There are many other things they could be doing with their future.”

It’s important lớn bít tất tay that systems of this scope are still in development. Most of China’s personal data are not yet integrated together, even within individual companies. Nor does China’s government have a one-stop data repository, in part because of turf wars between agencies. But there are no hard political barriers to lớn the integration of all these data, especially for the security state’s use. To the contrary, private firms are required, by formal statute, lớn assist China’s intelligence services.

The government might soon have sầu a rich, auto-populating data protệp tin for all of its 1 billion–plus citizens. Each protệp tin would comprise millions of data points, including the person’s every appearance in surveilled space, as well as all of her communications and purchases. Her threat risk lớn the party’s power could constantly be updated in real time, with a more granular score than those used in China’s pilot “social credit” schemes, which already alặng to lớn give sầu every citizen a public social-reputation score based on things like social-truyền thông media connections & buying habits. Algorithms could monitor her digital data score, along with everyone else’s, continuously, without ever feeling the fatigue that hit Stasay mê officers working the late shift. False positives—deeming someone a threat for innocuous behavior—would be encouraged, in order khổng lồ boost the system’s built-in chilling effects, so that she’d turn her sharp eyes on her own behavior, khổng lồ avoid the slighkiểm tra appearance of dissent.


If her risk factor fluctuated upward—whether due to some suspicious pattern in her movements, her social associations, her insufficient attention lớn a propaganda-consumption tiện ích, or some correlation known only khổng lồ the AI—a purely automated system could limit her movement. It could prsự kiện her from purchasing plane or train tickets. It could disallow passage through checkpoints. It could remotely commandeer “smart locks” in public or private spaces, khổng lồ confine her until security forces arrived.

In recent years, a few members of the Chinese intelligentsia have sounded the warning about misused AI, most notably the computer scientist Yi Zeng & the philosopher Zhao Tingyang. In the spring of 2019, Yi published “The Beijing AI Principles,” a manifeskhổng lồ on AI’s potential khổng lồ interfere with autonomy, dignity, privacy, & a host of other human values.

It was Yi whom I’d come lớn visit at Beijing’s Institute of Automation, where, in addition lớn his work on AI ethics, he serves as the deputy director of the Research Center for Brain-Inspired Intelligence. He retrieved me from the lobby. Yi looked young for his age, 37, with kind eyes and a solid frame slimmed down by black sweatpants và a hoodie.

On the way to lớn Yi’s office, we passed one of his labs, where a research assistant hovered over a microscope, watching electrochemical signals flash neuron-to-neuron through mouse-brain tissue. We sat down at a long table in a conference room adjoining his office, taking in the gray, fogged-in cityscape while his assistant fetched tea.


I asked Yi how “The Beijing AI Principles” had been received. “People say, ‘This is just an official show from the Beijing government,’ ” he told me. “But this is my life’s work.”

Yi talked freely about AI’s potential misuses. He mentioned a project deployed to a select group of Chinese schools, where facial recognition was used to lớn traông chồng not just student attendance but also whether individual students were paying attention.

“I hate that software,” Yi said. “I have sầu to lớn use that word: hate.”

He went on like this for a while, enumerating various unethical applications of AI. “I teach a course on the philosophy of AI,” he said. “I tell my students that I hope none of them will be involved in killer robots. They have only a short time on Earth. There are many other things they could be doing with their future.”

Yi clearly knew the academic literature on tech ethics cold. But when I asked hlặng about the political efficacy of his work, his answers were less compelling.

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Yi Zeng, photographed in his office at the Institute of Automation, in Beijing, July 20đôi mươi. Yi, the author of “The Beijing AI Principles,” has been a lonely voice in Đài Loan Trung Quốc warning that government misuse of AI could pose a threat lớn humanity. (Zhou Na)“Many of us technicians have sầu been invited to lớn speak lớn the government, & even lớn Xi Jinping, about AI’s potential risks,” he said. “But the government is still in a learning phase, just lượt thích other governments worldwide.”


“Do you have sầu anything stronger than that consultative process?” I asked. “Suppose there are times when the government has interests that are in conflict with your principles. What mechanism are you counting on lớn win out?”

“I, personally, am still in a learning phase on that problem,” Yi said.

Chinese AI start-ups aren’t nearly as bothered. Several are helping Xi develop AI for the express purpose of surveillance. The combination of China’s single-tiệc nhỏ rule và the ideological residue of central planning makes các buổi party elites powerful in every tên miền, especially the economy. But in the past, the connection between the government and the tech industry was discreet. Recently, the Chinese government started assigning representatives lớn tech firms, to lớn augment the Communist Party cells that exist within large private companies.

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Selling to the state security services is one of the fasdemo ways for China’s AI start-ups to turn a profit. A national telecom firm is the largest shareholder of iFlytek, China’s voice-recognition giant. Synergies abound: When police use iFlytek’s software to monitor calls, state-owned newspapers provide favorable coverage. Earlier this year, the personalized-news phầm mềm Toutiao went so far as lớn rewrite its mission lớn articulate a new animating goal: aligning public opinion with the government’s wishes. Xu Li, the CEO of SenseTime, recently described the government as his company’s “largest data source.”


Whether any private data can be ensured protection in China isn’t clear, given the country’s political structure. The digital revolution has made data monopolies difficult khổng lồ avoid. Even in America, which has a sophisticated tradition of antitrust enforcement, the citizenry has not yet summoned the will to force information about the many out of the hands of the powerful few. But private data monopolies are at least subject khổng lồ the sovereign power of the countries where they operate. A nation-state’s data monopoly can be prevented only by its people, và only if they possess sufficient political power.

China’s people can’t use an election khổng lồ rid themselves of Xi. And with no independent judiciary, the government can make an argument, however strained, that it ought lớn possess any information stream, so long as threats khổng lồ “stability” could be detected among mỏi the data points. Or it can dem& data from companies behind closed doors, as happened during the initial coronavirut outbreak. No independent press exists lớn leak news of these demands to lớn.

< Read: China’s surveillance state should scare everyone >

Each time a person’s face is recognized, or her voice recorded, or her text messages intercepted, this information could be attached, instantly, khổng lồ her government-ID number, police records, tax returns, property filings, và employment history. It could be cross-referenced with her medical records và DNA, of which the Chinese police boast they have sầu the world’s largest collection.


Yi and I talked through a global scenario that has begun to lớn worry AI ethicists & China-watchers alike. In this scenario, most AI researchers around the world come lớn recognize the technology’s risks lớn humanity, and develop svào norms around its use. All except for one country, which makes the right noises about AI ethics, but only as a cover. Meanwhile, this country builds turnkey national surveillance systems, & sells them to places where democracy is fragile or nonexistent. The world’s autocrats are usually felled by coups or mass protests, both of which require a baseline of political organization. But large-scale political organization could prove sầu impossible in societies watched by pervasive automated surveillance.

Yi expressed worry about this scenario, but he did not name Trung Quốc specifically. He didn’t have to: The country is now the world’s leading seller of AI-powered surveillance equipment. In Malaysia, the government is working with Yitu, a Chinese AI start-up, khổng lồ bring facial-recognition công nghệ khổng lồ Kuala Lumpur’s police as a complement khổng lồ Alibaba’s City Brain platform. Chinese companies also bid to outfit every one of Singapore’s 110,000 lampposts with facial-recognition cameras.

In South Asia, the Chinese government has supplied surveillance equipment khổng lồ Sri Lanka. On the old Silk Road, the Chinese company Dahua is lining the streets of Mongolia’s capital with AI-assisted surveillance cameras. Farther west, in Serbia, Huawei is helping set up a “safe-thành phố system,” complete with facial-recognition cameras và joint patrols conducted by Serbian & Chinese police aimed at helping Chinese tourists to lớn feel safe.

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Jonathan Djob NkondoIn the early aughts, the Chinese telecom titung ZTE sold Ethiopia a wireless network with built-in backdoor access for the government. In a later crackdown, dissidents were rounded up for brutal interrogations, during which they were played audio from recent phone calls they’d made. Today, Kenya, Uganda, and Mauritius are outfitting major cities with Chinese-made surveillance networks.


In Egypt, Chinese developers are looking to finance the construction of a new capital. It’s slated to lớn run on a “smart city” platform similar khổng lồ City Brain, although a vendor has not yet been named. In southern Africa, Zambia has agreed lớn buy more than $1 billion in telecom equipment from Đài Loan Trung Quốc, including internet-monitoring technology. China’s Hikvision, the world’s largest manufacturer of AI-enabled surveillance cameras, has an office in Johannesburg.

Trung Quốc uses “predatory lending to sell telecommunications equipment at a significant discount to developing countries, which then puts Trung Quốc in a position to control those networks & their data,” Michael Kratsquả táo, America’s CTO, told me. When countries need lớn refinance the terms of their loans, Trung Quốc can make network access part of the deal, in the same way that its military secures base rights at foreign ports it finances. “If you give unfettered access khổng lồ data networks around the world, that could be a serious problem,” Kratstiện ích ios said.

In 2018, CloudWalk Technology, a Guangzhou-based start-up spun out of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, inked a giảm giá khuyến mãi with the Zimbabwean government to lớn set up a surveillance network. Its terms require Harare to sover images of its inhabitants—a rich data phối, given that Zimbabwe has absorbed migration flows from all across sub-Saharan Africa—bachồng to CloudWalk’s Chinese offices, allowing the company to fine-tune its software’s ability to lớn recognize dark-skinned faces, which have sầu previously proved tricky for its algorithms.


Having set up beachheads in Asia, Europe, & Africa, China’s AI companies are now pushing inlớn Latin America, a region the Chinese government describes as a “core economic interest.” Đài Loan Trung Quốc financed Ecuador’s $240 million purchase of a surveillance-camera system. Bolivia, too, has bought surveillance equipment with help from a loan from Beijing. Venezuela recently debuted a new national ID-thẻ system that logs citizens’ political affiliations in a database built by ZTE. In a grlặng irony, for years Chinese companies hawked many of these surveillance products at a security expo in Xinjiang, the home province of the Uighurs.

If Đài Loan Trung Quốc is able to surpass America in AI, it will become a more potent geopolitical force, especially as the standard-bearer of a new authoritarian alliance.

Trung Quốc already has some of the world’s largest data sets to lớn feed its AI systems, a crucial advantage for its researchers. In cavernous mega-offices in cities across the country, low-wage workers sit at long tables for long hours, transcribing audio files và outlining objects in images, to make the data generated by China’s massive population more useful. But for the country to best America’s AI ecosystem, its vast troves of data will have sầu lớn be sifted through by algorithms that recognize patterns well beyond those grasped by human insight. And even executives at China’s search giant Baidu concede that the top echelon of AI talent resides in the West.

Historically, China struggled lớn retain elite quants, most of whom left to study in America’s peerless computer-science departments, before working at Silicon Valley’s more interesting, better-resourced companies. But that may be changing. The Trump administration has made it difficult for Chinese students khổng lồ study in the United States, & those who are able to are viewed with suspicion. A leading machine-learning scientist at Google recently described visa restrictions as “one of the largest bottlenecks to our collective sầu retìm kiếm productivity.”

China’s ascent to AI supremacy is a menacing prospect: The country’s political structure encourages, rather than restrains, this technology’s worst uses.

Meanwhile, Chinese computer-science departments have gone all-in on AI. Three of the world’s trang đầu AI universities, in terms of the volume of retìm kiếm they publish, are now located in Đài Loan Trung Quốc. And that’s before the country finishes building the 50 new AI retìm kiếm centers mandated by Xi’s “AI Innovation Action Plan for Institutions of Higher Education.” Chinese companies attracted 36 percent of global AI private-equity investment in 2017, up from just 3 percent in 2015. Talented Chinese engineers can stay home page for school & work for a globally sexy homegrown company lượt thích TikTok after graduation.

China will still lag behind America in computing hardware in the near term. Just as data must be processed by algorithms khổng lồ be useful, algorithms must be instantiated in physical strata—specifically, in the innards of microchips. These gossamer silibé structures are so intricate that a few missing atoms can reroute electrical pulses through the chips’ neuronlượt thích switches. The most sophisticated chips are arguably the most complex objects yet built by humans. They’re certainly too complex khổng lồ be quickly pried apart và reverse-engineered by China’s vaunted corporate-espionage artists.

Chinese firms can’t yet build the best of the best chip-fabrication rooms, which cost billions of dollars and rest on decades of compounding institutional knowledge. Nitrogen-cooled & seismically isolated, to prevent a passing truck’s rumble from ruining a microchip in vitro, these automated rooms are as much a marvel as their finished silibé wafers. And the best ones are still mostly in the United States, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan.

America’s government is still able lớn limit the hardware that flows inlớn Đài Loan Trung Quốc, a state of affairs that the Communist Party has come to resent. When the Trump administration banned the sale of microchips to lớn ZTE in April 2018, Frank Long, an analyst who specializes in China’s AI sector, described it as a wake-up Hotline for Đài Loan Trung Quốc on par with America’s experience of the Arab oil embargo.

But the AI revolution has dealternative text Đài Loan Trung Quốc a rare leapfrogging opportunity. Until recently, most chips were designed with flexible architecture that allows for many types of computing operations. But AI runs faschạy thử on custom chips, like those Google uses for its cloud computing lớn instantly spot your daughter’s face in thousands of photos. (Apple performs many of these operations on the iPhone with a custom neural-engine chip.) Because everyone is making these custom chips for the first time, Trung Quốc isn’t as far behind: Baidu & Alibatía are building chips customized for deep learning. And in August 2019, Huawei unveiled a điện thoại machine-learning chip. Its kiến thiết came from Cambribé, perhaps the global chip-making industry’s most valuable start-up, which was founded by Yi’s colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

By 2030, AI supremacy might be within range for China. The country will likely have the world’s largest economy, và new money khổng lồ spkết thúc on AI applications for its military. It may have sầu the most sophisticated drone swarms. It may have autonomous weapons systems that can forecast an adversary’s actions after a brief exposure to a theater of war, and make battlefield decisions much faster than human cognition allows. Its missile-detection algorithms could void America’s first-strike nuclear advantage. AI could upturn the global balance of power.

On my way out of the Institute of Automation, Yi took me on a tour of his robotics lab. In the high-ceilinged room, grad students fiddled with a giant disembodied metallic arm và a small humanoid robot wrapped in a gray exoskeleton while Yi told me about his work modeling the brain. He said that understanding the brain’s structure was the surest way to underst& the nature of intelligence.

I asked Yi how the future of AI would unfold. He said he could imagine software modeled on the brain acquiring a series of abilities, one by one. He said it could achieve some semblance of self-recognition, & then slowly become aware of the past & the future. It could develop motivations và values. The final stage of its assisted evolution would come when it understood other agents as worthy of empathy.

I asked hyên how long this process would take.

“I think such a machine could be built by 2030,” Yi said.

Before bidding Yi farewell, I asked hyên ổn khổng lồ imagine things unfolding another way. “Suppose you finish your digital, high-resolution model of the brain,” I said. “And suppose it attains some rudimentary khung of consciousness. And suppose, over time, you’re able to improve it, until it outperforms humans in every cognitive sầu task, with the exception of empathy. You keep it locked down in safe mode until you achieve that last step. But then one day, the government’s security services break down your office door. They know you have this AI on your computer. They want khổng lồ use it as the software for a new hardware platform, an artificial humanoid soldier. They’ve sầu already manufactured a billion of them, & they don’t give a damn if they’re wired with empathy. They dem& your password. Do you give it to them?”

“I would destroy my computer and leave sầu,” Yi said.

“Really?” I replied.

“Yes, really,” he said. “At that point, it would be time to lớn quit my job & go focus on robots that create art.”

If you were looking for a philosopher-king to chart an ethical developmental trajectory for AI, you could vì chưng worse than Yi. But the development path of AI will be shaped by overlapping systems of local, national, and global politics, not by a wise & benevolent philosopher-king. That’s why China’s ascent to lớn AI supremacy is such a menacing prospect: The country’s political structure encourages, rather than restrains, this technology’s worst uses.

Even in the U.S., a democracy with constitutionally enshrined human rights, Americans are struggling mightily to prsự kiện the emergence of a public-private surveillance state. But at least America has political structures that stvà some chance of resistance. In Trung Quốc, AI will be restrained only according lớn the party’s needs.

It was nearly noon when I finally left the institute. The day’s rain was in its last hour. Yi ordered me a oto & walked me to lớn meet it, holding an umbrella over my head. I made my way khổng lồ the Forbidden City, Beijing’s historic seat of imperial power. Even this short trip lớn the city center brought me inlớn tương tác with China’s surveillance state. Before entering Tiananmen Square, both my passport và my face were scanned, an experience I was becoming numb khổng lồ.

In the square itself, police holding body-form size bulletproof shields jogged in single-tệp tin lines, weaving paths through throngs of tourists. The heavy police presence was a chilling reminder of the student protesters who were murdered here in 1989. China’s AI-patrolled Great Firewall was built, in part, to make sure that massacre is never discussed on its internet. To dodge algorithmic censors, Chinese activists rely on memes—Tank Man approaching a rubber ducky—to lớn commemorate the students’ murder.

The party’s AI-powered censorship extends well beyond Tiananmen. Earlier this year, the government arrested Chinese programmers who were trying to lớn preserve disappeared news stories about the coronavi khuẩn pandemic. Some of the articles in their database were banned because they were critical of Xi và the tiệc nhỏ. They survived only because mạng internet users reposted them on social truyền thông, interlaced with coded language & emojis designed to lớn evade algorithms. Work-arounds of this sort are short-lived: Xi’s domestic critics used khổng lồ make fun of hlặng with images of Winnie the Pooh, but those too are now banned in Đài Loan Trung Quốc. The party’s ability khổng lồ edit history & culture, by force, will become more sweeping and precise, as China’s AI improves.

Wresting power from a government that so thoroughly controls the information environment will be difficult. It may take a million acts of civil disobedience, lượt thích the laptop-destroying scenario imagined by Yi. China’s citizens will have sầu lớn st& with their students. Who can say what hardships they may endure?

China’s citizens don’t yet seem to lớn be radicalized against surveillance. The pandemic may even make people value privacy less, as one early poll in the U.S. suggests. So far, Xi is billing the government’s response as a triumphant “people’s war,” another old phrase from Mao, referring lớn the mobilization of the whole population lớn smash an invading force. The Chinese people may well be more pliant now than they were before the virus.

But evidence suggests that China’s young people—at least some of them—resented the government’s initial secrecy about the outbreak. For all we know, some new youth movement on the mainl& is biding its time, waiting for the right moment khổng lồ make a play for democracy. The people of Hong Kong certainly sense the danger of this techno-political moment. The night before I arrived in Đài Loan Trung Quốc, more than 1 million protesters had poured into the island’s streets. (The không lấy phí state newspaper in my Beijing hotel described them, falsely, as police supporters.) A great many held umbrellas over their heads, in solidarity with student protesters from years prior, and lớn keep their faces hidden. A few tore down a lamppost on the suspicion that it contained a facial-recognition camera. Xi has since tightened his grip on the region with a “national-security law,” and there is little that outnumbered Hong Kongers can bởi vì about it, at least not without help from a movement on the mainlvà.

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During my visit lớn Tiananmen Square, I didn’t see any protesters. People mostly milled about peacefully, posing for selfies with the overkích thước portrait of Mao. They held umbrellas, but only lớn keep the August sun off their faces. Walking in their midst, I kept thinking about the contingency of history: The political systems that constrain a công nghệ during its early development profoundly shape our shared global future. We have learned this from our adventures in carbon-burning. Much of the planet’s political trajectory may depend on just how dangerous China’s people imagine AI to lớn be in the hands of centralized power. Until they secure their personal liberty, at some unimaginable cost, miễn phí people everywhere will have lớn hope against hope that the world’s most intelligent machines are made elsewhere.

This article appears in the September 2020 print edition with the headline “When Đài Loan Trung Quốc Sees All.”


Chuyên mục: NGÔI SAO