Fu Ying’s Remarks onUnderstanding the AI Challenge to Humanityduring the New Economy Forum
（A sub-Forum on Understanding the AI challenge to Humanity was held during the New Economic Forum in Beijing at 10：45am November 21, 2019, Yanqi Lake International Conference Center, Beijing. It was chaired by Walter Isaacson, participated by Dr. Henry Alfred Kissinger，Fu Ying, Eric Schmidt. The following is Fu Ying’s remarkes taken from her notes.）
We all know that the super-intelligent artificial intelligence (AI) is still far to reach for the mankind, however, AI has exceeded humans in some concreat domains and under specific constrains, and the areas are spreading rapidly. There is huge expectation of the benefit it may bring, but fear and concern are also rising.
Dr. Kissinger has talked about AI’s potential to fundamentally alter human consciousness and the danger of AI ending the age of reasoning since the Enlightenment. He is looking at it from a historical, philosophical and strategic perspective providing a powerful argument which has given us a lot to think about.
US is leading in AI technological innovation and China is following and is rapidly creating active and massive applications. These two countries should shoulder greater responsibilities in thinking ahead about the future and about what need to be done.
But before we can talk about the future, and about how we are going forward about technological advance, we first and foremost need to think through about whether we are going to do it together or if we are turning each other into enemies? The current worsening tension between China and the US cannot but have an impact on how we are going to deal with the challenges down the road.
That is to say, are we going to work together to make technology symbiotic to humans, help the world avoid technology risks, and ensure that the technology advances make our civilizations prosper? Or are we going to go separate ways and each trying to use the technology to undermine, even hurt the other side?
The choices we make will affect how we tackle the challenges posed by the advancement of science and technology. The US and the USSR during the cold war had to go through many crises，some threatened to bring the mankind to doom, before arriving at some kind of arrangement for self-constraint and co-existence.
The world today is more complicated and there is more at stake. Do we need bigger crisis to help us finding the right path? Can China and the US solve the differences and peacefully co-exist in the current world system or would they decouple like some people in Washington are trying to push for and therefore tearing the world apart, which is a prospect many Asian leaders and the UN Secretary General have been warning us against？
As far as China is concerned, the country has been on the fast pace of industrialization over the past three decades and has embraced all the basic rules developed in the past two centuries. Now, it is for the first time that China itself is among the first echelon in advanced technology. Apart from trying to do well, China is also growingly aware of rule-making responsibilities.
The traditional legislative approach is to wait for consensus in the society before a regulatory idea is developed. With current AI technology, the need for proper governance appears as soon as the application is made.
Therefore, it’s a new challenge for any government to manage this new regulatory challenge. The policy of the Chinese Government is on the one hand to encourage the advancement of industries, on the other hand, providing general guidelines.
China’s New Generation AI Governance Expert Committee which was set up by the Ministry of Science and Technology February 2019 has launched the 8 points principles in July. They include: harmony and human-friendliness, fairness and justice, inclusiveness and sharing, respect for privacy, security and controllability, shared responsibility, open collaboration and agile governance.
To put these principles into practice, the government will set up 20 pilot zones by 2023, for testing and collecting feedbacks on how the principles are being practiced. Other measures include offering open platforms to encourage enterprises to formulate their own standards. The R&D projects will also be measured by the 8 points principles.
In the Civil Code Part on Personality Rights which was adopted by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress August this year, there is particular emphasis on the protection of personal information (the collection and use of natural persons’ personal information can only be made with the consent of the natural person or the guardian). It also puts personal biometric data under protection. Another important development is the adoption by the National Network Information Office of the Provisions on the Cyber Protection of Children’s Personal Information which came into effective on October 1st, 2019.
AI technology research has always developed based on global collaboration, with researchers sharing ideas, and building on each other’s work. And AI platforms by multinational companies are also expanding globally. To regulate its progress, countries need to develop compatible ethical norms and industrial rules. So China’s governance effort needs to be connected with similar efforts in other parts of the world, the US in particular. The country also takes an open attitude in terms of discussing and working with other countries on creating and expanding common ground and reduce differences.
Neither China nor the US can monopolize the world’s technological progress. If the two countries complement each other, the prospects for AI technology is brighter; but if they stop working with each other, both will suffer and the general progress will pay a price. Should they allow the geopolitical and zero-sum competitive philosophy dominate their relations, it would be self-destructive.
One thing the Chinese side can do to improve the perceptions and reduce misunderstandings is to be proactive in communicating with the international community. Since China now is very much under the spot light of the world stage, it is important that when we launch major domestic documents, there should also be proper translation to go with them so that the world reads China’s intention accurately. Should there be misunderstandings, timely explanation is also necessary.
Take for example, the American fear of China’s ambition to dominate the AI’s future has prompted it to take the scientific and technological advance as the platfore of strategic rivalry. Aparantly its fear partly comes from mis-reading of the “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan” issued in Beijing July 2017.
The Plan laid out the targets the government wanted to promote, including: 1st step, for the Chinese AI technological development reaching the world advanced level by 2020; 2nd step, achieving major break through in basic theary and reaching the world leading level by 2025 in some parts of the technology and application; 3rd step, move to the forefront in theary, technology and application and become a major innovation center by 2030. It needs to be noted that what China wants to achieve is to become one of the world’s innovative centers, not “the” only and exclusive center. These are quite reasonable expectations.
The US is trying taking hi-tech as a platform of strategic rivalry which is not how China sees it. The reality in the field is a kind of constructive and strategic mutual dependency though no one can deny that competition in the fields of science and industry is not an abnormal phenomenon.
According to Clarivate Analytics, from 2013 to 2017, the number of AI related papers co-authored by Chinese and Americans grew the fastest, reaching 4,000 in 5 years. American companies lead in technologies (especially in semiconductor), and American universities are ahead of others in the world. But China has the largest user market and therefore provides faster iterative upgrading for algorithm. So, the two countries can benefit tremendously in complementary partnership, unless the US forces a decoupling, and pushes China to find other partners or develop its own solutions which will also weaken Amercian companies’ position and influence.
So for China, the preferred future is a world of interdependent community with shared future and the policy is to engage in wide international conversations for encouraging collaboration and develop common rules for safe, reliable and responsible AI. As the Chinese President Xi Jinping said, “China is willing to work with the international community to create an age of intelligence and share the achievements of the intelligence.” (end)
Fu Ying is former Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China and the Chairperson of the Center for International Security and Strategy of Tsinghua University