The People's Republic of China, nonetheless, is already an AI powerhouse, and for America to maintain its edge - and to prevent U.S. tech from being used for exceedingly disturbing purposes - Washington should force U.S. companies to end cooperative AI projects in China. The West should be seriously concerned: whoever wins at AI will both dominate the global economy and field the most destructive conventional military force. Unfortunately, American companies are helping China's leaders in what many call - correctly - crimes against humanity. For instance, AI researchers from Microsoft, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Michigan State University gave keynote speeches at the Chinese Conference on Biometric Recognition in Xinjiang in August of last year on facial recognition, a social-control technology. Some of Google's research is in China.
In a provocative op-ed in the New York Times last week, PayPal and Palantir founder Peter Thiel argued that artificial intelligence is "a military technology." So, he asks, why are companies like Google and Microsoft, which have opened research labs in China to recruit Chinese researchers for their cutting-edge AI research, "sharing it with a rival"? Thiel's op-ed caused a big splash in the AI community and frustrated experts in both AI and US-China relations. An outspoken Trump backer, Thiel has been a leading voice pushing for tech to be more aligned with what he sees as America's defense interests -- and his messages have been influential among conservative intellectuals. Critics pointed out that Thiel had failed to disclose that his company, Palantir, has defense contracts with the US government totaling more than $1 billion, and that he might benefit from portraying AI as a military technology (a characterization of AI that experts dispute).
On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin declared that Google's work in China is not a security concern. As he told CNBC, "I don't see any area -- again the president and I did diligence on this issue -- and we're not aware of any areas where Google is working with the Chinese government in any way that raises concerns." Google's most disturbing Chinese initiatives involve the co-development of technology. Cooperation of this sort is so injurious to the United States that it should be criminalized, by emergency presidential order. Google, the Alphabet Inc. unit, also believes its projects in China are benign.
China has recently announced their long-term goal to become #1 in A.I. by 2030. They plan to grow their A.I. industry to over $22 billion by 2020, $59 billion by 2025 and $150 billion by 2030. They did this same type of long-term strategic planning for robotics – to make it an in-country industry and to transform the country from a low-cost labor source to a high-tech manufacturing resource, and it's working. With this major strategic long-term push into A.I., China is looking to rival U.S. market leaders such as Alphabet/Google, Apple, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft. China is keen not to be left behind in a technology that is increasingly pivotal -- from online commerce to self-driving vehicles, energy, and consumer products.