Kai Fu Lee About Future of AI in the US vs China
Exclusive Interview with Kai Fu Lee at Silicon Dragon event in San Francisco
Who is leading in AI Tech Development – USA or China?
Startup environment in China is exceptional. We have been running a VC fund in China and now we manage about 2 billion dollars with returns substantially higher than Silicon Valley returns. That speaks to itself. The giants in China are very strong but they have to be in areas to leverage their strength, and with something like AI areas, banking AI, insurance AI, autonomous vehicle AI, health AI and retail AI – these have nothing to do with Alibaba or Tencent. So startups have every chance to become next Alibaba or Tencent.
What is Sinovation Ventures investing in?
Sinovation Ventures focuses on whatever is rapidly growing area because we believe in using our technology know-how, if we can predict next big trend, we would ride the trend up rather than taking a piece from zero some game. We currently investing in artificial intelligence which includes autonomous vehicles, robotics, healthcare, education aspects of AI. We also invest in core education projects as well as next-generation user experiences and new types of apps for new types of users that are emerging new users in China that demonstrates different demographic behaviors. And finally, we invest in SaaS, B2B software and we think these are all exciting areas.
Where do you have the highest returns – in China or the USA?
AI has a lot of exciting upsight. But as in my new book, AI Superpowers, I talked about also the challengers. AI is so good at the single domain with a large amount of data. It can do face recognition, speech recognition, approval of long applications, and target advertising, and matchmaking and all kind of scenarios much much better than humans. So humans doing those jobs, namely routine jobs, will e over the next 15 years replace by AI. In terms of job market, we need to think about what are the next steps we need to take as a society to help people who might be misplaced by AI, mostly routine jobs, to be retrained so that they can have a new beginning.
I think Chinese companies are the best in implementing AI and extracting value. That’s why today the most valuable companies in speech recognition, machine translation, computer vision and drones are Chinese companies. But that is not necessarily the deep technology that makes them strong but the ability to implement quickly, iterate quickly, move quickly and work extremely hard. When it comes to the most advanced technology and breakthroughs US still has an edge. If there is a company that is going to invent an amazing breakthrough that probably still most likely is going to be an American company.