- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2018


China, according to a recent report by LinkedIn, is rising in the rankings of numbers of workers in the artificial intelligence industry.

This is not, nor should it be, a shoulder-shrug moment.

Yes, the United States is currently leading in this regard, employing 850,000 of the world’s 1.9 million who work in A.I.-related fields. China, by comparison, employs 50,000, the seventh-highest for all nations rated in this report.

Yes, on surface, that doesn’t sound so startling. After all, there are still the countries of India, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and France separating China from America on the A.I. employment scale. Why worry about Number Seven, right?

But here’s the flip side, and it’s not to be taken lightly.

China has made no secret of its intent to become the global leader in A.I. development by 2030. Moreover, China, unlike America — unlike the other countries in slots two-through-six on the A.I. workers’ list — has few privacy, data collection and individual rights’ concerns that could constrain its quest for technology dominance.

The BBC, for instance, sent a journalist late last year to the southern Chinese city of Guiyang to test the capabilities of the country’s surveillance system. The findings were eye-opening. Within a matter of seven minutes, AI-powered lens had picked the journalist out from the crowd of about 3.5 million who call Guiyang home, identified him as a “suspect” and tasked authorities to arrest him.

How? China has more than 176 million cameras surveilling everything from shoppers to drivers, feeding data into computer learning systems at a rate that’s unrivaled by other countries. The country is a true surveillance state, and its A.I. capabilities are only going to grow. China plans to install another 400 million or 500 million data-collecting cameras by 2020.

Free societies, beware. The national security and economic ramifications of a communist country owning the technology sphere are tremendous.

“Artificial Intelligence is a force-multiplier across the entire national security enterprise,” said Klon Kitchen, the senior research fellow for Technology, National Security and Science Policy at the Heritage Foundation, in an email. “It will impact everything from missile defense, to intelligence analysis, to individual soldiers on the battlefield. If China is allowed first-mover advantage in A.I. it could fundamentally reshape the U.S.’s national security posture and the international order.”


Think long-range drone strike capability. Think satellite imagery technology and data-driven intelligence collection. Think audio- and video-forging abilities for propaganda and intel planting purposes. Think robotic soldiers, cyber-hacking potential, unmanned weaponized ships and aircraft, the race for space superiority.

If China leads, what happens to the state of freedoms around the world?

“This is a must-win challenge for our nation, and I’m afraid we’re already behind,” Kitchen said.

That’s dire. But true.

It only stands to reason that if a strong America brings stability to a rocky world, and if the future belongs to the country with the most advanced technology, then the United States must lead on artificial intelligence. Anything less, and the world’s foundations are shaky.

• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley.

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