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Worldwide experts cast light on future of AI

ZHAO SANLE | 2019-09-26 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)
Li Yuhang (Left) is the vice president of the Institute of Digital Economics of the United Nations World Silk Road Forum.
Peter Vesterbacka (Middle) is an entrepreneur from the Heart of Eurasia, Helsinki, Finland.
Ludovic Bodin (Right) is Ambassador for International Investment FranceAI Hub. Photos: Zha Jianguo/CSST


The concepts and new frontiers of artificial intelligence have gradually entered the public eye in recent years due to the widespread popularity of products and technologies such as intelligent robots, speech recognition and face recognition. AI technology has quickened the development of human society. Recently, the 2019 World Artificial Intelligence Conference held in Shanghai was attended by a host of influential scientists, entrepreneurs and relevant government leaders in the global intelligence field. What are the AI pioneers engaging with? Which areas do AI applications focus on? What achievements can be made by applying AI technology to the implementation of the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative? A CSST reporter interviewed experts from China, Finland and France to seek the answers to these questions.


CSST: How will Chinese companies help digitize countries along the proposed routes of the B&R initiative?
Li Yuhang: China is taking the lead regarding industrial internet application. China has a large population base and many good applications have emerged. For example, in transportation and travel, Didi Taxi, a cellphone app which makes it possible to contact both taxis and private cars with professional drivers, has been serving users for a couple of years. The countries along the proposed route of the B&R are learning this model. They can further learn from China in terms of industrial internet application. I think China can introduce its advanced experience and best security practices in these countries.
CSST: How will the digital industry stimulate service trade among the participating countries of the B&R?
Li Yuhang: Service trade actually has a tradition going back thousands of years. It is known to us that China has frequent trade bonds with the participating countries of the B&R. Through the form of technology and digitization, the digital industry will bring new and greater development to the traditional sectors. We can introduce these emerging technologies into traditional industries and combine digitization and more sectors through online and offline operations, thus expanding the scale and efficiency of service trade. This will further take advantage of the potential of traditional forms of service trade.
CSST: What difficulties are there in promoting service trade in the B&R initiative through digital technology applications and cross-border e-commerce? 
Li Yuhang: I think data islands or data chimneys form the biggest difficulty. The initiative involves various countries, departments and companies. The process of digitization and these countries’ transformation into digital economies will generate reams of data. Some countries or institutions may have their own systems. If the data fails to be shared and accessed, there will be many data islands or data chimneys hindering trade. Therefore, we need to establish standards for cross-border data circulation under the UN framework. Such standards will enable data flow among countries and rev up the development of the digital economy.
CSST: You are known not only as the developer of the famous game “Angry Birds,” but because of an even more impressive project: you are developing an underwater tunnel that stretches from Finland to Estonia. Why did you get into infrastructure construction?
Peter Vesterbacka: I worked as the “mighty eagle” for Rovio in Finland for many years. Then I decided that it was a good time to work on some bigger things, one  being is education, and the other being infrastructure.
We were working on a tunnel connecting Helsinki to Tallinn, the capital cities of Finland and Estonia, creating a much higher talent density. So the tunnel is just one detail of my project. We are creating gravity to attract talent to the FinEst Bay Area. Another big focus will be AI, so I’m happy to attend the World Conference on Artificial Intelligence here in Shanghai to share our plan that will be fantastic to future AI development and deployment. 
CSST: Do you see similar potential in the development of the B&R initiative where infrastructure is a huge part? 
Peter Vesterbacka: We are very impressed by what has been happening around the B&R initiative, and their infrastructure investment is driving things and making things happen along its proposed routes.
The water tunnel I have just mentioned also has links with the initiative. We have a similar plan to stimulate innovation around the tunnel. We will have four station areas and each of them will attract 50,000 new people. We expect 20% of the new people to be students. Infrastructure is a good way to create gravity and attract talent. Our tunnel plan and the B&R initiative have similar thinking. 
CSST: Video games in China are a massive industry. Do you plan to take part in it?
Peter Vesterbacka: The video game industry is one of the biggest globally. It is the biggest sector of world entertainment. In China, we have massive opportunities around gaming. Finland is responsible for 6% of the global mobile game revenue. That’s a lot for only 5 million people. I think there is a lot we can do together with Chinese friends when it comes to gaming, especially in the area of making fun learning games.
Gaming is a very good way to help young people and children learn. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t use games to make learning much more fun and effective. We have a big focus on China, education and bringing it all together.
We also want to learn from classical Chinese education. There is a lot that we can do in the area. We should talk about STEAM and bring art, music and all the creative industries into this. So gaming has a massive role to play in the future of China and the world.
CSST: The theme of the forum is Forming an Ecosystem of Artificial Intelligence. Where do you think your industry is positioned in that ecosystem? What improvements should the ecosystem’s other parts make to maximize your advantage?
Ludovic Bodin: There are four components forming the AI cooperation ecosystem, including talent, research, data and funding. We have proposed a ten-year framework cooperation on AI between Europe and China, which encapsulates these four parts. We work specifically on the funding part. China is undergoing new economic changes which have been brought about by new technologies like AI and big data. This means we need a new path and a new form of cooperation.
When it comes to big data and AI, it is important to have a legal framework that allows European and Chinese companies to work together in data exchange and algorithm training. To that regard, about two months ago, we signed a cooperation agreement on big data at an expo in Guiyang, Guizhou Province, as a start to setting up a big data exchange platform between Europe and China. The platform will allow European researchers to work with Chinese researchers. For example, they can study the data from China on healthcare, mobility and the environment.
CSST: You have started multiple AI companies in China. What is your evaluation of the potential of the AI market in China?
Ludovic Bodin: Data is key to developing AI. China and Europe have a lot of data sets in multiple sectors. We are also focusing on AI applications in healthcare such as disease detection and prevention, the mobility of goods and people, and the environment, including food, energy, and water. 
CSST: Are tech-companies thirsty for global talent?
Ludovic Bodin: Chinese companies are going through some challenges. The United States and Europe are attracting large pools of global talent. I think it is a big challenge for Chinese companies to become more international to attract foreign talent, cooperate with foreign companies and conduct fundamental AI research. China has great potential for fundamental AI research.
CSST: AI enables smart machines to process and react with human-like intelligence. How far have we progressed in AI development? When can we invent a computer system that processes like the human brain?
Ludovic Bodin: We are still at the beginning of AI technology. Between 2020 and 2030 is where the explosion of the industry is going to happen. The real race in AI will come a year or two from now. The first five years will focus on AI applications, and therefore data and access to data will be fundamental. Invention, when it comes to product development, funding and talent, will be crucial. The second five years will feature fundamental research. By 2030, we will see many applications of AI in energy and biotechnology. Many interesting innovations will emerge concerning the AI brain. 
edited by MA YUHONG