8 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

106 are several

106 are several successful European start-ups that have a potential for growth but, globally speaking, there is a lack of scale. The investment fund Atomico predicts: “The probability that the next Google will emerge in Europe has never been greater than now”. Europe produces two times more PhDs in the STEM disciplines than the USA and China, and has built entrepreneurial skills into the attainment targets of higher education curricula. Unlike in the USA and Asia, Europe is actively building ecosystems, open research and innovation platforms, in which traditional companies, young start-ups and universities collaborate. Daniel Wong elaborated his talk around the rise of consumer AI in China. He described his journey as CEO of Rokid 5 , the voice assistant (cfr. Amazon’s Echo) of China. In China everything goes faster, even faster than in the USA. “From concept to mass production in 18 months” can only happen in China. China has more early adopters. In 2015, western Venture Capitalists (VCs), business leaders and consumers were very cautious, even in Silicon Valley, whereas Chinese VCs, industry and consumers were enthusiastic about AI. Now, in 2018, there are hundreds of voice assistants. In the USA, you can stay unique for a long time. In China, as soon as you launch an innovation, you have dozens or hundreds of competitors, who automatically force you to remain innovative. China is also a very special market where, for example, you can raise the selling price and still sell more units! Consumers are seeking the newest and the most valuable, and are willing to pay for it. China offers a lot of advantages, such as consumer fascination, data, speed, funds and government support. What about Europe? The natural partners for Chinese companies are situated in Silicon Valley. Europe does not cross the mind of most entrepreneurs in China. AI innovation in China is driven by the new start-ups, not necessarily the big guys like B.A.T. ROKID’S ALIEN, ADVERTISED AS AN UNPRECEDENTED CREATURE THAT STUDIES YOUR BEHAVIOUR, A PERSONAL COMPANION, DEVELOPED FROM CONCEPT TO MASS PRODUCTION IN 1,5 YEARS Note of the author: Dan Wong visited some VUB laboratories on Big Data, AI and Robotics and was extremely surprised to find interesting technologies and horizontal technology platforms emanating from VUB’s excellent strategic research portfolios, despite their longer creation-time-to-market expectation. Tom Vandendooren: gave us insights into how Sentiance, a Belgian start-up, became active in the Chinese market. Sentiance’s AI platform turns IoT (Internet of Things) and smartphone sensor data into rich insights about people’s behaviour and real-time context: sensing, mining connected devices, understanding and predicting behaviour in the real world and in real time. These insights help companies engage with their customers and users in a hyper-personalised way. Sentiance’s technology is used in the following verticals: life-style based insurance, contextual commerce, connected health, smart mobility and fleet management, connected cars, smart home and smart city Tom Vandendooren characterized Sentiance’s China experience as “good, bad and scary”. The good is about the market size, smart spaces, O2O 6 , the social credit system designed to increase trust in the Chinese market, the receptiveness of the ecosystem towards new practices, the widespread mobile services. The bad is about restrictions on data for western companies which hamper their participation in the market — like having to use local datacenters for data storage, privacy regulations, IP transfer requests, … The scary is more about how the Chinese compete in ways that do not always correspond to the European understanding of fairness, as well as the big B.A.T. brothers. Recently, Plug and Play (PNP), one of the world’s largest open innovation platforms, entered into a partnership with Sentiance, to exploit the vast opportunities in the Chinese market. As Sentiance’s local partner, PNP China will utilize its extensive network of corporate, government and investment partners in China to drive and accelerate growth in the market. Salvatore Spinello focused on opportunities for AI multidisciplinary research and the possibilities of EU-China collaboration within the EU’s programme Future and Emerging Technologies — FET. Within the Horizon 2020 programme budget of 74,8 billion Euros, excellent science represents 24,2 billion Euros and, within the latter, FET has a budget of 2,6 billion Euros dedicated to novel ideas for radically new technologies. The financials of projects with Chinese involvement are summarized in the following table.

Proposals in H2020 Budget FET Budget 2014 247 31,5M€ 5 316K€ 2015 352 40,5M€ 3 822K€ 2016 513 54,5M€ 2 62K€ 2017 648 75,3M€ 1 370K€ Note from the author: Considering the number of partners in EU proposals, their multi-year nature, the figures in the table represent a mere drop in a vast ocean. Nonetheless, these grants are very important because they enable Chinese researchers, enterprises, institutions and universities to team up with their European partners to participate in Horizon 2020 projects, also providing an excellent opportunity to get to know the state-of-the art beyond official publications in both parts of the world. In summary, the workshop concentrated on the positive opportunities of collaboration with China in the field of AI and provided valuable insight into Chinese ambitions and the many on-going societal processes within China that are combining to produce an explosive growth in AI. However, I’ve also been reflecting on Tias Gun’s quotation, “AI can make wishes come true, … let’s hope these wishes are leading to human-oriented, sustainable solutions.” It is, however, a worry that AI technologies can also be used to make evil wishes come true. This cannot be ignored: a striking example is the election process that produced President Donald John Trump. This happened in a democracy, the USA. The interplay of different components (i) money, (ii) lies and (iii) manipulation is rooted in a spider web of companies with know-how on big data, AI and media. Central in the spider web is Robert Mercer, initially a scientist at IBM dealing with natural language processing, which is the historical breeding ground for contemporary AI scientists. He has also worked on algorithmic trading and stock market prediction, before moving to the Renaissance Technology Hedge Fund in the early nineties and becoming a billionaire. Here is component (i), the money. The SCL group (Strategic Communication Laboratories) is a private British behavioural research and strategic communication company. Through its affiliate Cambridge Analytica, it performs data mining and data analysis on selected target audiences. On its website, Cambridge Analytica advertises “Cambridge Analytica uses data to change audience behaviour” and mentions a commercial and political division within the organisation. Communications specifically target key audience groups to influence and modify behaviour in accordance with the goals of SCL’s client. The company describes itself as a “global election management agency”. This is the basis for component (ii) the lies. It is estimated that Trump’s completely true statements account for only 5 % of all his election statements. Again, the company’s know-how is rooted in scientific research, e.g. behavioural psychology, personalised and usually innocent questionnaires and surveys. The fusion of these personalised data (eventually grouped into a limited number of categories of personality types) with data that can be acquired or bought from banks, IT companies like Google, Amazon, … has turned the USA election process into a real data-driven campaign through personal communication, targeting three crucial US states and convincing the 80.000 voters needed to win the elections. This is component (iii) the manipulation. The core technology of SCL can, of course, be used in various ways but if these technologies are capable of disrupting a democracy, the question that arises is, what effects can they have in a society based on “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”? The information used in the above paragraph comes from the web and a documentary “Unfair Game” … but then again, is it fake or real news information? In any case, it describes a picture that goes beyond NETFLIX’s fiction series “House of Cards”, and illustrates that, as for any breakthrough scientific research, there is a potential dark side in its application which, however, should not prevent us from doing good research. Jan Cornelis Academic Attaché CIDIC and Emeritus Professor Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) 1 UCIP: University centered International platforms on innovation and knowledge transfer – INNOVIRIS: Brussels Institute for Research and Innovation. 2 BACES: Brussels Academy for China European Studies 3 BDA: Brussels Diplomatic Academy 4 Author’s note: AI has experienced several hype cycles, followed by disappointment and criticism, followed by funding cuts, followed by renewed interest, sometimes decades later (see, https://en.wikipedia. org/wiki/AI_winter). It is my opinion that this time, the congruence of massive computing power (supercomputers, cloud computing and the perspectives of quantum computing), and progress in big data and deep learning will make AI part of our daily lives. Previous hypes might not have achieved the expectations, but nevertheless they also produced substantial progress in science and its applications. 5 The company’s product line-up includes smart speakers called Rokid Pebble and Alien, which are currently sold in China (see also CES - Consumer Electronics show In 2018, Rokid debuted its newest offering: augmented reality glasses with incorporated voice control and AI. 6 O2O stands for “online to offline.” It is a term used to describe a variety of e-commerce services that provide online information, services, or discounts to consumers to enhance their offline shopping experiences. 107