March 03, 2023

China’s Censors Are Afraid of What Chatbots Might Say

ChatGPT has made quite the stir in China: virtually every major tech company is keen on developing its own artificial intelligence chatbot. Baidu has announced plans to release its own strain sometime next month. This newfound obsession is in line with paramount Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s strategic prioritization of AI development—dating back to at least 2017—in China’s race to become the world’s dominant AI player and ultimately a “science and technology superpower.” And while the development of large language model (LLM) bots such as ChatGPT is just one facet of the future of AI, LLMs will, as one leading AI scientist recently put it, “define artificial intelligence.” Indeed, the sudden popularity of ChatGPT has at Google “upended the work of numerous groups inside the company to respond to the threat that ChatGPT poses”—a clarion indicator of the arguably outsized importance of LLMs.

Xi would have to make a hard choice between staying competitive in the tech race and mitigating short-term unrest.

Yet, China’s aspirations to become a world-leading AI superpower are fast approaching a head-on collision with none other than its own censorship regime. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) prioritizes controlling the information space over innovation and creativity, human or otherwise. That may dramatically hinder the development and rollout of LLMs, leaving China to find itself a pace behind the West in the AI race.

Read the full article from Foreign Policy.

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