Return of Rationality | AI in China: 2020 and Beyond
The ‘smart world’ is here – but we want it smarter.
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The Third Industrial Revolution (IR3) marks the coming of the digital era. Digitalization and automation have been keywords since the 1950s – and will continue to be in the years to come. In the approaching decades, before we digitalize everything that can be digitalized, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4), featured by intelligent productivity, will take shape. The world is therefore in a transcendental phase between IR3 and IR4 – some businesses, industries and regions are in the digitalization process, while some are pursuing a smarter society through the transformations of IR4 processes.
The revolution started with big data and deep learning, led by the Western world. IR3 has cultivated the gathering and storage of zettabytes of data over the past decades, laying a foundation for IR4, as the latter is built on data, with the addition of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI attracted substantial attention in the 2010s, especially in China. Most recently, ample venture capital flushed into the field.
As early as 2013, the value of AI-related investment deals in China was CNY 11 billion (around USD 2 billion). The number pumped up by 25x in five years. The frequent investments in AI tell us the field was white-hot: the deal count of investments in AI increased to 435 in 2018 from 82. The AI investment mania has cooled off from 2017, but for us, AI is a new normal – it has become part of our lives in multiple scenarios.
Where the data accumulates the most, the strongest AI is present. Myriad data provides fertile soil for training algorithms. In China, AI has been widely used for surveillance and public security purposes in support of civil governance. In this area, unicorn companies like SenseTime (商汤科技), Yitu (依图科技), CloudWalk (云从科技) and Megvii (旷视科技) have rushed in the front. The property security system, rail station identity check, and other scenarios all widely adopt AI solutions. Besides, the financial industry embraces AI to facilitate anti-fraud, anti-money laundering, risk monitoring, facial-recognition payment (FRP) and so on.
The smart tech has gradually penetrated our life in certain areas, which brings convenience and lowers the input cost. Because of AI, people in China can take high-speed rails without picking up electronic/hard copy tickets – a facial scan will do the work; Internet financial companies grow rapidly when AI solutions help them control the risks; entertainments are more customized for individuals as AI helps entertainment companies to delineate accurate user images and conduct precision marketing.
However, AI is still in an elementary stage. Other than smart city, fintech and tailored promotions, AI is a nice-to-have addition – but not a must-have for industries at the current development level. For instance, while airplanes have autopilot systems, automobiles are still in the process of developing autonomous driving solutions. While companies like Waymo and Apollo are testing their self-driving cars in Arizona or somewhere else, the technology is far from universally available – the actual driving environment is more complicated and arguments from the legislative side are yet to be settled. The world is not completely ready for the AI era – but it largely welcomes it.
Among the 47 AI unicorn companies worldwide, 38 are from either China or the US. AI in China developed at a surprising speed and has already experienced a ‘Peak of inflated expectations. With the return of rationality, the post-manic AI market is in the ‘Trough of disillusionment’ of the Gartner hype cycle – the ‘Slope of enlightenment’ comes next.
What are the landscape features of Chinese AI in the post-manic period? What can we expect from the ‘Slope of enlightenment’? On June 30, 9 PM (Beijing Time), EqualOcean invites Stella Zheng, Head of Mainland China at 500 Startups, and Terry Ke, Strategy Director at Zhuiyi Technology, to share their views on the AI market and AI development.
Click here or copy the link below to register.
WIM Salon (World Innovators Meet Salon) by EqualOcean
WIM Salon is a knowledge-sharing platform that aims to fill the communication gap between investors, entrepreneurs, professionals, influencers from China and other countries. We believe that through this platform many talented people will gain influence and contribute to the world.