UN: China and the US are leading the way in AI race

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A report from the United Nations highlights a dominance by China and the United States in the race to artificial intelligence supremacy.

The study, by the UN World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), was published on Thursday.

US tech giant IBM is leading in AI patents with 8,920 filed. Microsoft followed with 5,930.

Japan’s Toshiba has the next highest number of patents (5,223), ahead of South Korea’s Samsung (5,102), and Japan’s NEC Group (4,406).

Chinese organisations make up 17 of the top 20 academic players in AI patenting, as well as 10 of the top 20 in AI-related scientific publications.

Machine learning is currently the most patented technique of artificial intelligence.The fastest growing, however, is deep learning with a 175 percent annual increase in patent applications from 2013 to 2016.

In terms of applications, ‘AI for robotics’ grew the fastest over the same period with an increase of 265 percent.

When delving into the growth of AI use per industry, transportation was by far the fastest growing (134%) which is of little surprise considering the investment around self-driving vehicles.

This industry was followed by telecommunications (84%), life and medical sciences (40%), and personal devices, computing, and HCI (36%).

With their large economies and populations, it’s unsurprising to see the US and China leading in AI.

Andrew Ng, renowned AI expert and CEO of DeepLearning.ai, said in the report: “It’s very difficult for other countries, even those with great education, to compete with the business, engineering, and investing talent” of China and the US.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry noted how the cultural and linguistic diversity of Europe is an obstacle to machine learning.

Gurry fears a growing use of AI for military purposes by major geopolitical players, but that AI overall could be good for mankind if used properly.

“Is it (AI) good news or bad news? Well, I would tend to say that all technology is somewhat neutral and it depends on what you do with it,” he commented.

”So, insofar as you may use AI science and techniques for developing autonomous weapons systems that are going to kill us all, is not very good news. Insofar as it’s being used to improve health indicators for diagnostics, for other purposes, it’s great news.”

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