China, Smart Software, and Different Opinions

October 21, 2021

I spotted “China Isn’t the AI Juggernaut the West Fears.” The main idea for the story is that China has cornered smart software applications and innovation. Therefore, the future — at least some of it — is firmly in the grip of the Chinese Communist Party.

My hunch is that this article in the Japan Times is a response to articles like “Former Senior Pentagon Official Says China is Kicking Our Ass in Artificial Intelligence.” Nicolas Chaillan, a former Pentagon official, suggested that China is making significant progress in AI. If China continues on its present path, that country may surpass the US and its allies in smart software.

What’s interesting is that quite different viewpoints are zooming around the interwebs.

The Japan Times’ take which channels Bloomberg includes this statement:

On paper, the U.S. and China appear neck and neck in artificial intelligence. China leads in the share of journal citations — helped by the fact that it also publishes more — while the U.S. is far ahead in the more qualitative metric of cited conference papers, according to a recent report compiled by Stanford University. So while the world’s most populous country is an AI superpower, investors and China watchers shouldn’t put too much stock in the notion that its position is unassailable or that the U.S. is weaker. By miscalculating the others’ abilities, both superpowers risk overestimating their adversary’s strengths and overcompensating in a way that could lead to a Cold War-style AI arms race.

Yep, citation analysis.

I don’t have a dog in this fight. I want to point out that citation analysis, like patent documents, may not tell a comprehensive story.

I would suggest that citation analysis may be distorted by the search engine optimization techniques used by some academics and government-funded researchers. In addition, the publication flow from what I call AI cabals — loose federations of like minded researchers who cross cite one another — provide a fun house mirror opportunity.

That is, what’s reflected is a version of reality, not the reality that a person like myself would perceive without the mirrors.

Net net: The Japan Times’ write up may be off the mark. As a result, the view point of Nicolas Chaillan may warrant serious consideration.

Stephen E Arnold, October 21, 2021

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