In one key AI metric, China outperformed the US: talent

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China lags behind the US when it comes to the artificial intelligence that powers chatbots like ChatGPT. But when it comes to the scientists behind a new generation of humanoid technologies, China is leading the way.

China has overtaken the US as the top producer of AI talent by some metrics, with the country producing nearly half of the world’s top AI researchers, new research shows. By contrast, about 18 percent of U.S. undergraduates come from institutions, according to the study, from Macropolo, a think tank run by the Paulson Institute, which promotes constructive relations between the U.S. and China.

The results represent a leap forward for China, which produced a third of the world’s talent three years ago. America, by contrast, remained largely the same. The research builds on the background of researchers whose papers were published at the 2022 Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems. NeurIPS, as it is known, focuses on advances in neural networks, which have anchored recent developments in generative AI.

The talent imbalance has been brewing for the better part of a decade. For much of the 2010s, the United States benefited as large numbers of China’s top minds moved to American universities to complete doctoral degrees. Most of them were based in America. But research shows that trend is beginning to change with the increasing number of Chinese researchers in China.

What happens in the next few years could be crucial as China and the United States jockey for the lead in AI – a technology that could potentially increase productivity, strengthen industries and Innovation can – transform researchers into one of the most geographically significant groups in the world. .

Generative AI has taken the tech industry in Silicon Valley and China by storm, leading to a frenzy of funding and investment. This boom has been led by US tech giants like Google and startups like OpenAI. That could attract researchers from China, though rising tensions between Beijing and Washington could also deter some, experts said.

(The New York Times has sued OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement of news content about AI systems.)

China has nurtured so much AI talent in part because it has invested heavily in AI education. Since 2018, the country has added more than 2,000 undergraduate AI programs, more than 300 of which are at its top universities, said Damien Ma, managing director of MakroPolo, although he noted that programs in the technology Not focusing too much on who achieved success. Through chatbots like ChatGPT.

“A lot of the programs are about AI applications in industry and manufacturing, not so much the high-production AI content that currently dominates the US AI industry,” he said.

Recently, the United States has pioneered advances in AI with the extraordinary human capabilities of chatbots, with a significant portion of this work being done by researchers educated in China.

According to the study, researchers from China now make up 38 percent of the top AI researchers working in the United States, compared to 37 percent of Americans. Three years ago, 27 percent of top talent working in the U.S. came from China, compared to 31 percent from the United States.

“The data shows how important Chinese-born researchers are to the US for AI competitiveness,” said Matt Sheehan, a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

He added that the data suggests that the US is still attractive. “We are a global leader in AI because we attract and retain talent from around the world, especially from China,” he said.

Peter Abel, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and founder of Covariant, an AI and robotics startup, said working with a large number of Chinese researchers is valued among leading US companies and universities.

“It’s just a natural state,” he said.

In the past, U.S. defense officials were not overly concerned about the flow of AI talent from China, partly because many large AI projects did not deal with classified data and partly because they It was argued that it is better to have the best minds available. That much of the leading research in AI is published openly has also raised concerns.

Despite restrictions introduced by the Trump administration barring students from some of China’s military-affiliated universities from entering the U.S. and a relative slowdown in the flow of Chinese students into the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, research has shown large The numbers showed the most promising AI. He kept coming to America for brain studies.

But this month, a Chinese national who was an engineer at Google was accused of trying to transfer AI technology — including key microchip architecture — to a Beijing-based company that secretly used it. paid, according to the federal indictment.

The sheer number of Chinese AI researchers working in the U.S. is now a problem for policymakers, who want to combat Chinese espionage while facing a steady flow of top Chinese computer engineers to the U.S., according to experts who focus on U.S. competitiveness. Do not discourage.

“Chinese scholars are almost at the forefront of the AI ​​field,” said Subbarao Kumbhampati, an AI professor and researcher at Arizona State University. If policymakers try to prevent Chinese nationals from doing research in the United States, he said, they are “shooting themselves in the foot.”

US policymakers have a mixed track record. A Trump administration policy aimed at curbing Chinese industrial espionage and intellectual property theft has since been criticized for wrongly prosecuting several professors. Chinese expatriates said such programs have encouraged some to stay in China.

For now, research shows, most Chinese who complete their doctorates in the US stay in the country, helping to make it the global center of the AI ​​world. Even so, the U.S. lead has begun to slip to host about 42 percent of the world’s top talent, down from about 59 percent three years ago, according to the study.

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