China has vowed to become a world leader in artificial intelligence within a decade. The People’s Republic has revealed plans to spend billions on developing computers that are capable of thinking for themselves.
However, experts believe an AI version of the space race could be disastrous for the world and even lead to the creation of a digital destroyer that ends up wiping out humanity.
Yesterday, China released a “national AI development plan” which committed it to spending $22.15 billion (£17 billion) on AI research by 2020 and $59.07 billion (£45 billion) by 2025.
China wants to square up to Western market leaders including Google and Microsoft, who are racing ahead in the development of smart computers.
“The local and central government are supporting this AI effort,” said Rui Yong, chief technology officer at PC maker Lenovo Group.
Rui said officials back AI because it is seen as the latest “industrial revolution” similar to the advent of the combustion engine, electricity or the internet.
“They see the fourth industrial revolution as coming, (and think) we better invest and support and build a very strong ecosystem,” said Rui.
China’s State Council said the “situation with China on national security and international competition is complex”, which was part of the incentive for making a domestic AI push.
“We must take initiative to firmly grasp this new stage of development for artificial intelligence and create a new competitive edge,” it said.
Earlier this year, a top thinker said careless researcher could accidentally bring about the end of humanity whilst battling to develop a super-intelligent artificial intelligence.
Nick Bostrom, head of the University of Oxford’s Future Of Humanity Institute, said that one slip up in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) could spell curtains for humanity.
“There is a control problem,” he said.
“If you have a very tight tech race to get there first, whoever invests in safety could lose the race.
“This could exacerbate the risks from out of control AI.”