China would evidently like to add a line to the Three Laws that mythically govern robots: always agree with the government. Language generative artificial intelligence, as demonstrated by the ChatGPT program, is a problem for Beijing. It can synthesise opinions on politics as well as sport and the weather. China’s latest attempt to boost indigenous tech reflects its fear of dissident chatbots.
Evidence comes via stock price leaps for telecom companies previously seen as irredeemably dull. Shares of China Telecom gained 6 per cent on Wednesday while peer China Mobile hit a historic high. China United Network Communications rose by its daily limit.
These businesses should benefit from Beijing’s latest push to expand Chinese AI and cloud computing. The government will supply generous funding.
Last month, tech giants Baidu and Tencent enjoyed a shortlived rally after announcing their own responses to ChatGPT. Days later, Chinese regulators told its tech giants not to offer ChatGPT-like services to the public. Local tech groups that do deploy advanced chatbots will need to clear them with regulators.
ChatGPT is not officially available in China. Beijing previously blocked Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Wikipedia, quickly creating censored versions of its own.
For the moment, chatbots are hard to censor. OpenAI, the US start-up behind ChatGPT is still struggling with the tendency of the chatbot to make extreme comments.
The government’s apparent workaround is to route AI investment to state-owned telecom companies. These should be easier to control than tech giants such as Baidu. But they are hardly innovative. Even after a record-breaking rally, shares in China Mobile trade at just 8 times forward earnings, well below regional peers.
This points to a potential flaw in China’s plan to become a world leader in tech. It may be much tougher to achieve in a one-party state, where intervention can stifle innovation. Chatbot curbs lend support to that argument. They will surely slow the development of AI, in which China hopes to become best-in-class by 2030.
China telcos: the fear of dissident chatbots will retard AI Republished from Source https://www.ft.com/content/ca878397-ae56-42ba-9cbd-35f2ede82e1d via https://www.ft.com/companies/technology?format=rss