The reporter of “Link” magazine recently conducted an exclusive interview with Kaifu Li, CEO of Innovation Workshop. Kai-Fu Lee is betting heavily on machine learning technology, and China has now taken the lead in this area.
The following is the full text of the article:
By 2030, China will become a major player in the global artificial intelligence industry. This is not a prediction from a researcher or scholar, but from the Chinese government's policies.
The Chinese State Council issued a document in July last year and plans to develop China into a global leader in artificial intelligence research and application within the next 12 years. Governments around the world are supporting artificial intelligence innovation, but no other country has issued a unified plan like China. More importantly, China has the ability to do this: China can implement its established policies more forcefully than Western countries.
However, the plan is only one aspect. In the famous boxer Tyson's words, "everybody has a plan before being hit." However, China has not only formulated strategies, but past experience shows that China has the ability to implement large-scale, ambitious projects. "One Belt One Road" infrastructure projects are reshaping many parts of the world. "Public entrepreneurship, innovation and innovation" policy has come up with $ 320 billion to support entrepreneurs, using technology and innovation to promote the structural transformation from industry to service industry.
Li Kaifu, the star of the Chinese science and technology industry, said: “The document of the State Council clearly stated that by 2030, China will become an artificial intelligence innovation center. These documents have been implemented in various places. "Li Kaifu has already invested in about 300 companies. Through venture capital fund innovation workshops, Li Kaifu is also a major investor in China's artificial intelligence startup companies. The innovation workshop manages 1.8 billion U.S. dollars for investment in China and the United States.
Li Kaifu pointed out: "All ministries are thinking about this issue, from the Ministry of Science and Technology to the Ministry of Education. "quoHe detailed a series of incentives, including subsidies, tax rebates, guidance funds and local government incentives. In China, local governments and private investors play an equally important role. “Traditionally, State Department documents can quickly mobilize the entire country. We have seen the speed of China’s high-speed railways, and the 66,000 incubators that the dual-generation activities (started in 2014) brought in more than two years. ”
The 57-year-old Kai-fu Lee is an ideal candidate for observing the Chinese technology industry. He is in an unusual position. It is an outsider on the one hand and an insider on the other. Kai-Fu Lee was born in Taiwan and his parents emigrated to the United States and received a doctorate at Carnegie Mellon University. In 1990, he was named chief research scientist by Apple, engaged in product and management work, and then joined Microsoft in 1998. At Microsoft, he held several senior positions, including the formation of the Microsoft Beijing Research Institute. In 2005, he was appointed president of Google China. After working at Google for 4 years, he announced his departure and started the operation of an innovative workshop. Currently, Lee Kai-fu has become a star in the Chinese tech circle by investing in retail, transportation, financial technology, and robotics. He has more than 50 million fans on Chinese social networks.
In the past 10 years, China’s entrepreneurial culture has rapidly emerged. At present, the value of Chinese technology companies such as Alibaba and Tencent is exceeding that of their American counterparts. Li Kaifu believes that China is enjoying huge structural advantages, especially from scale. He said: "The fuel for artificial intelligence is data, and China has more data than other countries." Although the number of mobile phone users is only 3 times, the number of mobile payments may exceed 50 times that of the United States. Through the processing of artificial intelligence engines, these huge amounts of data can be used for forecasting, improving efficiency, bringing more profits, cutting labor, and reducing costs. Data advantage is a huge advantage. ”
In Western countries, the debate over the power and influence of technology companies and how they share and use consumer data continues. At the same time, Chinese users do not have such suspicions, and the same is true for technology companies. Earlier this month, Beijing Ventures, a Beijing startup that developed surveillance technology, obtained US$600 million in investment with a valuation of US$4.5 billion.
Kai-fu Lee said: "Chinese users are willing to come up with personal privacy data for convenience or security." This is not a clear process but a cultural element. ”
However, only the policy and market size are not enough. In order to use machine learning and other computer technologies to provide tools for future startups, talent is also needed in a global market.
Kai-fu Lee pointed out: "There are a large number of engineering students ready to enter the field of artificial intelligence. Many people have the misconception that artificial intelligence is a smart scientist inventing different algorithms for different fields such as medicine, finance, loans, banking, self-driving cars, and facial recognition. However, artificial intelligence is not the case. The basic innovation of artificial intelligence is deep learning, and everyone on this basis customizes for different fields. ”
"Therefore, we are not in the era of discovery, but in the era of implementation, the era of data. China has advantages in these areas. Many executors, or excellent AI engineers, complete the work and let the algorithm run faster and connect to the business logic. ”
Li Kaifu believes that such an advantage means that Europe and the United States need to change the concept that Chinese technology companies are imitators, and admit that in reality, in certain areas, Chinese technology is first class. This change of concept is also beneficial to European and American companies. Li Kaifu believes that the biggest danger in Silicon Valley is self-centeredness and complacency in its leading position.
Li Kaifu said: "From a logical perspective, it is time to learn from China. However, in the real environment, I think that Europe and the United States must first realize that China is currently leading in many technologies, business models, products, and functions. For example, if you compare WeChat with Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, compare Weibo with Twitter, and compare Alipay with Apple Pay, you can see that China is ahead of the United States. From a logical perspective, it is time for the United States to learn. However, in reality, the United States has not done so. Chinese entrepreneurs know everything that happened in Silicon Valley, but very few people in Silicon Valley are very familiar with China. Some people know a little about China, and most people are ignorant of it. ”
Kaifu Lee believes that China’s best area is to connect the online and offline worlds through a complex sensor network, such as in a retail environment.
He said: "Alibaba and Tencent are developing or investing in physical stores. These physical stores are becoming more and more intelligent. They have joined artificial intelligence technologies, established artificial intelligence-enabled supply chain and inventory management, and are also using cameras and other devices to understand consumers and bring online and offline consumer data. Integrate and even develop unattended stores. ”
In June 2017, InnovationWorks invested USD 4.4 million in the F5 Future Store, an automated retail startup in Guangzhou. Since there is no salesman, customers need to place orders through smart phones or place orders on the big screen in the store. In mobile-preferred China, 90% of Internet activity is through mobile devices, and this is the foundation of many innovations, including the most complex and seamless mobile payment ecosystem. In this ecosystem, there are currently 700 million people online data connected to Alibaba and Tencent payment accounts.
Li Kaifu said: "The United States has led the world with the best shopping center layout. However, the future shopping center may be invented by the Chinese, providing a thorough online and offline integration, an efficient combination of personalized, service-intensive products for each consumer, such as children's play areas and recreational facilities, and automation Services such as fast food and convenience stores. Smaller, more efficient shopping will redefine future shopping experiences. This will be a big part of the ongoing online and offline convergence. ”
Li Kaifu described China’s State Council officials as “technical pragmatists,” which he believes gives entrepreneurs important advantages. Similarly, the orthodox view of Silicon Valley is to encourage startup companies to launch imperfect products in the market and understand what works and then iterate. "Compared to the discussion of the perfect solution, and then implemented as a law (in some Western countries do), they tend to launch products to see how effective. If the effect is good, then scale up. If there is a problem, then correct it. ”
Of course, this could have an important economic impact: The U.S. Truck Drivers Union is lobbying to try to protect the work of its members from the threat of self-driving cars. However, in China, such things will not have much impact. This shows that there are cultural differences among legislators in different countries regarding the structural impact of technology on the workforce. At the same time, as the United States and China continue to consolidate their influence on the deployment of artificial intelligence technology, smaller countries will be disproportionately affected because they rely largely on unskilled labor to develop the economy.
"More and more artificial intelligence companies and technology companies will occupy a disproportionate share of the value creation process." Many jobs will be replaced by artificial intelligence. "Li Kaifu said:" The model that poor countries can develop upward through low-cost manufacturing and exports through cheap labor has already ended. I think this is a challenge for many small countries, especially those with underdeveloped technologies and countries where the work force might be replaced by artificial intelligence. ”
The hegemony of the United States and China’s duo will also have geopolitical influence and form two different influence circles. One possible situation is that US technology companies will dominate Europe and the United States, and perhaps Japan, and Chinese startup companies are more likely to establish their own status in the developing world through cooperation with local companies in technology and capital.
Li Kaifu believes that "Chinese companies have penetrated into Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East, and even the South American market. This is possible, and it is good for China." But even without these markets, China is very strong. Many people outside of China are saying that you must go outside of China to become a large global player. Although I think that globalization is a good thing and China will make progress in this area, I don't think this is very important, because China is by far the largest unified market in the world. There is a unified language, culture, and government that are completely connected with mobile payments. This may be as important as adding the entire European and American markets together. ”
Although the United States is still in the lead, Li Kaifu believes that the balance of power will shift. "China obviously has data advantages." China’s engineering capabilities are as good as anywhere in the world, at least as good as it is. Chinese entrepreneurs may be more powerful than other countries. The total capital here is comparable to that of the United States, and the market is even larger. The pattern of competing for hegemony has become a reality. The only difference is that you may say that the United States still has the upper hand today. However, I think that such comparisons will inevitably change. ”