China spends more money on AI than the US, but not on defense

Tram Ho

In Washington DC, there is a number that is frequently mentioned, around the amount the Chinese government intends to spend on artificial intelligence (AI): $ 70 billion by 2020, up from an estimated number of $ 12 billion in 2017. This number was originally shared during a speech by a senior US Air Force general in 2018, but its origins remain a mystery. Still, it sparked an invisible fear among the community of policymakers, that America was being shamefully defeated in the global AI race.

Also according to the speech of the air force general, China has far surpassed the United States in expenditures not only for general research, but more specifically for military AI. If the United States does not take drastic steps to catch up, this nation – and democracy – will fail.

But the latest estimates from China Security and Emerging Technologies (CSET) show that China is likely to spend much less on AI than the above figures. In addition, most of the money poured into AI seems to be devoted to non-military research, such as platform algorithm development, robotics research, and intelligent infrastructure development. In contrast, the expected US spending in fiscal 2020 will spend most of the AI ​​budget on defense, meaning that in reality, the United States is the only country that surpasses China in military AI spending. In other words, the new figures are completely in contrast to what one had previously speculated.

Trung Quốc chi nhiều tiền vào AI hơn Mỹ, nhưng không phải dành cho quốc phòng - Ảnh 1.

A chart comparing U.S. and Chinese government expenditures for AI (U.S.: gray in 2020, China: magenta indicates the lowest estimate, shedding only the highest estimate in 2018; column 1 : research and development of non-defense AI; column 2: research and development of defense AI; column 3: total)

Researchers at CSET estimated the highest and lowest investment budgets for China’s AI in 2018 by cross-checking China’s Ministry of Finance’s national spending report with programs. fundraising by other government agencies and data extracted from projects funded by these agencies. The results are still quite preliminary, because they are based on many different assumptions. But the researchers are highly confident that their analysis will at least confirm that China’s AI spending is in fact not even close to current assertions.

The report also points to exaggerated comparisons and fears that overshadow all discussions around AI strategy in Washington DC. It is known that at this year’s National Security Committee’s Artificial Intelligence Conference, that fear has even become a key tool for the Pentagon to take advantage of and call for help from companies. technology.

But experts have warned that this attitude will ultimately damage US AI development, as the country focuses too much on military AI and too little on background research, introduce export control policies that harm US companies, and limit international cooperation programs focusing on great achievements in this area.

Reference: MIT Technology Review

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Source : Genk