Tech companies should stop pretending AI won't destroy jobs

By Kai-Fu Lee (MIT Technology Review),

I took an Uber to an artificial-­intelligence conference at MIT one recent morning, and the driver asked me how long it would take for autonomous vehicles to take away his job. I told him it would happen in about 15 to 20 years. He breathed a sigh of relief. “Well, I’ll be retired by then,” he said.

Good thing we weren’t in China. If a driver there had asked, I would have had to tell him he’d lose his job in about 10 years—maybe 15 if he was lucky.

That might sound surprising, given that the US is, and has been, in the lead in AI research. But China is catching up—if it hasn’t already—and that rivalry, with one nation playing off the other, guarantees that AI is coming.

China will have at least a 50/50 chance of winning the race, and there are several reasons for that.

First, China has a huge army of young people coming into AI. Over the past decade, the number of AI publications by Chinese authors has doubled. Young AI engineers from Face++, a Chinese face-recognition startup, recently won first place in three computer-vision challenges—ahead of teams from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Second, China has more ...

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