AI Super-Powers by Kai-Fu Lee

AI Super-Powers by Kai-Fu Lee

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The first wave of AI has finished, and we’re surfing the second.

3 Points:

  • Data comes before AI. AI struggles to exist without a data. (Counter: AlphaZero.)
  • Quality > Quantity…unless it’s AI.
  • Sensors + AI creates systems that can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ better than us.

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Favourite Quotes:

[On using government funding for technological upgrades] …Successes are often ignored, and every misfire becomes fodder for attack ads. It’s far safer to stay out of the messy business of upgrading an economy. [p. 100]
Mesmerized by my quest to create machines that thought like people, I had turned into a person that thought like a machine. [p. 176]

Would I re-read this?

Yes, and I have skimmed back through it several times as a refresher. Clocking in at 231 pages, it’s a well explained fast read. Reading it allowed me to understand some dynamics of technology adoption as a whole, not just AI. Additionally, he cleared up several misconceptions I had of AI. In the space between theory and practice, this book is all practice.

An issue with AI is that it is not obvious: A rocket (e.g. the space race) is something concrete, we can touch it. AI is under our phone screen, within our social media apps, and becoming embedded in everyday objects. It’s becoming really difficult to distinguish between an Algorithm, Human, and Artificial Intelligence.

Unfortunately, the common example of AI if you ask someone on the street might be a Chatbot. In my experience, these chatbots are some of the worst examples of AI. If we were to think of ‘non-obvious’ AI, an example could be Google Maps, a fruit picking tool, my fitness tracker, or the many versions of computer vision around us. (Like TapTapSee or Google Lens.)

If we’re not striving to make ourselves aware of it, entirely AI-driven products will continue to crawl into the fabric of our lives.

What did I implement?

  • I look for data — If there is a mountain of data, there is money and information to be gleaned from it.
  • I try to keep up with the Zhongguancun (中关村) district. According to Lee, it’s known as China’s Silicon Valley, and this book gave me a glimpse into this area.
  • Paying more attention to sensor technology. Watching the newest sensors come out and imagining the way we can network them together and learn from it using AI. (E.g. A sensor just came out a few days ago that may be able to sense food contamination/expiration.)

In Summary...Understanding a small piece of the future in a large country like China seems like a worthwhile way to spend a few days of reading. I also believe the AI that Kai-Fu Lee writes about has already impacted, and will continue to impact everyone alive today.