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中国超越美国成为全球AI创业投资第一大国

经过近十年的发展,计算机的算力和处理数据的能力取得了重大的突破。人工智能领域因此迅猛发展。

中美两国在人工智能方面展开竞赛,两方各有千秋。在美国,自然语言处理,机器学习应用,以及计算机视觉与图像入列AI创业公司的三甲。而中国排名前三的领域为:计算机视觉与图像,智能机器人以及自然语言处理。

中国和美国在人工智能开发方面的竞争很难量化,虽然有些指标可以初步评估AI的发展能力,但是没有指标可以全面评估。

根据CB Insights的数据,在对AI初创公司的资助上,中国已经超越美国成为世界第一大国。2017年中国占全球人工智能启动资金总额的48%,而美国仅为38%。

但是,这并不意味着在中国在这场竞赛中取得完胜。虽然就个人交易数量而言,美国仅占总数的9%,而美国在人工智能初创企业的总数和总体融资总额方面均居榜首。但是,在人工智能创业融资的美元价值方面,中国处于领先地位,CB insight表示:“中国正在积极执行一个影响深远的AI愿景”。

中国在人工智能方面具有天然的优势。与美国相比,它拥有庞大的人口(十四亿),这为人工智能企业提供了丰富的数据和机会。中国的人工智能行业也得到了中央政府的支持,相对于缺乏行动的白宫而言,中央政府能够迅速转移资源,而国家对数字监管的宽松做法意味着企业可以更自由地进行实验。

中国的在人工智能上投入的资金,主要专注于人脸识别核心技术。这种技术的应用很普遍,从识别乱穿马路的行人到分配厕纸,无所不包。更重要的是,它也被视为监视和跟踪的工具。这是美国公民可能不想复制,也无法复制的技术优势。

除了人脸识别,CB Insights还指出,中国的芯片行业也是人工智能启动资金投入的一大重要领域。像寒武纪科技(去年8月募资1亿美元)这样的初创企业正在开发处理器,以满足机器学习的需求。这种巨额资金的投入是有价值的,因为,尽管人工智能芯片的很多投资资金流向中国的初创公司,但在美国,高通(Qualcomm)、英伟达(Nvidia)和英特尔(Intel)等老牌公司正在将资源投入到同样的事业中。显然,中国不希望被牵着鼻子走。

在美国和中国的人工智能竞赛中,鹿死谁手尚不明确,但是中国在人脸识别和芯片技术方面已将美国甩在身后了。

The competition between China and the US in AI development is tricky to quantify. While we do have some hard numbers, even they are open to interpretation. The latest comes from technology analysts CB Insights, which reports that China has overtaken the US in the funding of AI startups. The country accounted for 48 percent of the world’s total AI startup funding in 2017, compared to 38 percent for the US.

It’s not a straightforward victory for China, however. In terms of the volume of individual deals, the country only accounts for 9 percent of the total, while the US leads in both the total number of AI startups and total funding overall. The bottom line is that China is ahead when it comes to the dollar value of AI startup funding, which CB Insights says shows the country is “aggressively executing a thoroughly-designed vision for AI.”

China’s natural advantages in AI are well-documented. Compared to the US, it has a huge population (1.4 billion), which offers a wealth of data and opportunity for companies to scale quickly. Its AI sector also has the backing of a central government that’s able to quickly shift resources (as opposed to the missing-in-action White House), and the country’s looser approach to digital regulations means companies can experiment more freely.

But these qualities can have downsides, too. The looser regulatory atmosphere, for example, is reflected by the fact that a major recipient of AI funding in China is facial recognition. This technology is widespread in the country’s cities, used for everything from identifying jaywalkers to allocating toilet paper. More significantly, it’s also been embraced by the government as a tool for surveillance and tracking. This is a technological advantage that US citizens probably wouldn’t want to replicate.

Along with facial recognition, CB Insights notes that China’s chip sector is also a big recipient of AI startup funding. New companies like Cambricon (which raised $100 million last August) are building processors designed to handle the demands of machine learning. But again, context is useful. Because while more money for AI chips may be going to China’s startups, in the US, it’s established companies like Qualcomm, Nvidia, and Intel that are pouring resources into the same cause.

In the US vs. China AI competition, even when we have numbers, it’s difficult (and probably impossible) to judge a “winner” — for now, anyway.


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