China’s tech minister says replicating ChatGPT is a huge challenge for Chinese tech companies
China’s Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang is worried that China may be left reeling behind the rest of the world when it comes to AI applications like ChatGPT. That's why China is trying to steer the conversation towards AI's ethicality
Impressed by what ChatGPT can do and how useful it will be to the Chinese government and the Chinese tech industry, several big tech companies in China, as well as newly found startups are in a rush to create Chinese alternatives to OpenAI’s text generator. However, although they have been working on their own versions of ChatGPT for months, if not years now, things haven’t been going smoothly.
So much so, that China’s Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang is a little worried that China may be left reeling behind Europe, US and the rest of the world, in what can possibly be the next frontier of technology.
Also read: AI frenzy: Chinese tech firms are scrambling to make AI generative bots like ChatGPT
A “tricky and frustrating” situation
China has some catching up to do in order to compete with the popular artificial intelligence product ChatGPT developed by San Francisco-based start-up OpenAI, according to the head of the country’s Ministry of Science and Technology, as technological self-reliance remains a top priority for the central government amid heated trade tensions with the US.
ChatGPT has the benefit of delivering findings in real-time, which is “very challenging to accomplish,” said Science and Technology Minister Wang Zhigang on the first day of the annual National People’s Congress (NPC) on Sunday.
According to Wang, China has done a lot of planning and study in the areas of natural language processing and natural language and has been working on it for a long time. During this time, they have been understanding how the tech can be used and has made some progress. However, in order for China to accomplish the kind of results seen by OpenAI, the nation must “wait and see,” he said, hinting towards the ethical dilemmas that AI-based language processors raise.
Also read: China’s AI gambit: CCP pushes Beijing govt. to support AI businesses making ChatGPT alternatives
To an outsider, it clearly seems that China’s Science and Technology ministry is trying to cover up the slow development of their AI generators using the garb of ethical dilemmas. This is actually a bit rich, especially when you consider that China has already banned ChatGPT-like services to be shared with the public and that China already has a bunch of laws that govern how AI applications and generators can and cannot be used.
Where does Chinese Big Tech stand on AI bots?
Large language models used to create complex bots like ChatGPT can generate unpredictable, and frequently incorrect, answers. Some have questioned whether China’s strict internet censorship would enable the creation of a product like ChatGPT.
Since its debut in November, ChatGPT’s explosive success has thrust generative AI into the global limelight, sparking numerous discussions in China about the future of the domestic industry.
Many of China’s biggest tech companies have already vowed to create their own alternatives to ChatGPT, which, despite not being formally accessible in the country, has gone viral in the country via third-party apps and services.
Also read: China instructs big tech corporations to not provide ChatGPT services; details here
Most importantly, Chinese internet search giant Baidu revealed last month that its ChatGPT competitor Ernie Bot will be released this month. Wang Huiwen, co-founder of on-demand service giant Meituan, has promised to spend $50 million in a ChatGPT-like initiative with a $200 million valuation. Alibaba Group Holding has said that its research centre Damo Academy is working on a comparable instrument.
Challenges go beyond Chinese state censorship
In addition to conquering internal censorship challenges, businesses will require a massive quantity of computing capacity at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain in China. Restrictions on the export of sophisticated graphics processing units (GPUs) to China, such as Nvidia’s A100, which are essential for machine learning, could delay national AI development objectives.
Also read: What ChatGPT thinks of China banning AI language models for the public because it can’t be censored
Wang has previously spoken out about the principles of AI research in relation to ChatGPT. “Our nation has implemented some equivalent steps in terms of ethics for any new technology, including AI technology,” Wang said at a press briefing last month.
In 2021, the Ministry of Science and Technology published “New Generation Artificial Intelligence Ethics Specifications,” its first set of ethical rules regulating AI.
The guidelines specified, among other things, that humans should have complete decision-making power over AI and the right to choose whether to take related services, exit an engagement with an AI system, or cease its operation at any moment.
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