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Few Countries Will Benefit From the AI Revolution (qz.com) 124

hackingbear writes from a report via Quartz: According to Chinese venture capitalist and former Google China president Kai-Fu Lee, the list of countries well-positioned to embrace a future powered by artificial intelligence is exceedingly short: United States and China. "The countries that are not in good shape are the countries that have perhaps a large population, but no AI, no technologies, no Google, no Tencent, no Baidu, no Alibaba, no Facebook, no Amazon," Lee says. "These people will basically be data points to countries whose software is dominant in their country. If a country in Africa uses largely Facebook and Google, they will be providing their data to help Facebook and Google make more money, but their jobs will still be replaced nevertheless." Originally, China's low labor costs might have helped the country modernize, Lee says, but as AI-driven automation takes hold in manufacturing, other countries that want to follow China's blueprint for economic growth probably wouldn't be able to rely on cheap labor alone.
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Few Countries Will Benefit From the AI Revolution

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  • Everyone benefits (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @09:45PM (#56331485)

    Even the poorest of countries will benefit directly from AI. It will mean improved everything - better materials, better components, better electronics made far more cheaply to the point where people in poor countries can afford them better.

    In even the poorest of countries, most people have cell phones now. Why are you suddenly doubting some new and useful technology will make its way there?

    Not to mention, as more and more things like automated tractors come to be, it makes it more practical to send equipment rather than cash to poor nations - which mean the people may actually get it, unlike the cash which seems to vanish before it ever reaches those it is meant to help.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Have you seen the division of wealth lately? Countries generally don't tend to share.

      • Global median income has doubled in the last decade. Global income inequality is getting lower every year and has made incredible strides recently.

        So yeah, we've seen the "division of wealth", lately. Except of course, there is no one "dividing" a fixed pie of wealth. Instead, people participating in trade and markets are growing the world's wealth.

        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          This is a fallacy that comes from confusing wealth with money. Money is just numbers, there is no upper limit. Natural resources are very limited and are rapidly diminishing or have already been destroyed, mostly not to fulfill people's needs but to "make money". (An extreme and particularly absurd form of this is those idiots who heat up the planet to produce "coins" that are not even legal tender.)

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by _Sharp'r_ ( 649297 )

            As long as money can be used to purchase things, then it's a representation of wealth. Somehow I don't think you're going to send me all your money because you actually believe it's worthless.

            Natural resources are very limited and are rapidly diminishing or have already been destroyed

            And yet, somehow reserves of natural resources just keep staying about the same, year after year, decade after decade. It's almost like we're nowhere even remotely near running out of anything important. Oh, that's because your

            • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

              And yet, somehow reserves of natural resources just keep staying about the same

              I think this statement is over simple. Some people will claim we are rapidly running out of things critical to our survival. Those people are either miss-informed, lying, or using a very different definition of "rapidly" than we use in common speech.

              On the other hand we are seeing massive decrease in biodiversity and there is potential for collapse of ecosystems we depend on going over an edge where they could go into some kind of deterioration feedback loop. I think the 'truth' about this lies somewhere

      • They may not share, but if they can sell their goods for less, then the poor countries benefit. Also if the countries can take advantage of these cheaper technologies that have a low barrier of entry. Then many of these countries can take advantage of that as well.

        Are they going to go head to head against Google? No, but they will be able to use such technologies to help support other jobs.

    • by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @09:54PM (#56331523)
      Exactly! Saying only the U.S. and China will benefit from AI would have been like saying that only the UK would benefit from the Industrial Revolution in the early 19th Century. Countries all over the world use machine-based factories and benefit from their invention even though it basically started in the UK.
      • I think the idea is that America and China will benefit disproportionately better than the rest of the world. Not every country has a Mfg powerhouse, or Entertainment powerhouse, or software powerhouse, or service sector powerhouse.

        No matter what, AI combined with Intellectual Property laws will be used to create scarcity to simulate a market of supply and demand where businesses and estates can live off the fruits of the lucky for as long as they can! The power brokers are in charge and they will do anyt

        • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday March 26, 2018 @10:22PM (#56331631)

          I think the idea is that America and China will benefit disproportionately better than the rest of the world.

          That is utter nonsense.

          AI for a place like the US or China means what? Maybe some of us aren't driving ourselves. Some of the vast amount of stuff we get is marginally cheaper. We have the equivalent of personal assistants - many of us on Slashdot are essentially living a large part of this future already.

          Meanwhile a poor village in India or Africa gets a solar panel and cell phones, it's 10000x improvement in quality of living. In the future maybe they get drone delivered medicine (as they are already starting to do today) and maybe some children are living that did not before. Maybe a region gets an automated agricultural facility, suddenly now they have more food than ever before. Maybe there's an automated irrigation bot that comes and build canals to fields. Maybe they get pre-fab structures that actually self-clean and resist disease instead of harboring it like grass/mud huts.

          The list goes on, but basically ANYTHING they get is a n utterly massive improvement not just in quality, but QUANTITY of life itself.

          There is simply no comparison, at this point the most advanced nations are absolutely the ones seeing incremental improvement from technology.

          No matter what, AI combined with Intellectual Property laws will be used to create scarcity to simulate a market of supply and demand

          Not in poor regions where hacked 3D printers can and will create anything of interest, bypassing all IP laws. It happened for movies and music already, and there's no reason to think it cannot happen to physical objects as well.

      • It is correct and accurate to say that most countries have *already* benefited from AI (even if it's not strong AI).
        • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

          It is correct and accurate to say that most countries have *already* benefited from AI (even if it's not strong AI).

          I don't doubt that's true, but did you have any specific examples in mind?

          • Anything that uses A* search, for example (like mapping, which even if people don't use maps directly, shipping services bringing goods to their country do).

            Getting more esoteric, genetic algorithms have been used to find new drugs, and AI algorithms have been used in spectroscopy since the 70s.
        • by KBrown ( 7190 )

          > It is correct and accurate to say that most countries have
          > *already* benefited from AI (even if it's not strong AI).

          I don't think it's AI what most countries have benefited from. It's just electronics and 20th century IT.

      • Industrial revolution allowed to being MORE people to labor - women and children.

        AI will eliminate that - it's the opposite direction.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      I would say that "most people benefit" is a possible, even a plausible outcome. But it's far from certain. On the other hand it's almost certain that literally everyone won't do well out of it. I don't think that's ever happened in the history of disruptive technological change.

      I think you have to be careful about generalizing from past disruptive events; every technological change is unique. And AI is taking us to a point that is unique even in the history of disruptive technologies -- although I think

    • ...And I doubt that the one is going to be American.

      The argument that you [SuperKendall (who I generally agree with)] is making is only partly applicable here. The long-term trend has definitely been for things to get better, but we only live on the short term. I think this time the short-term oscillations are going to go too negative, because the competition is accelerating and making the oscillations too violent. So I'm changing the Subject: a bit...

      While I think that India and maybe Japan are dark horse

      • If a competition-driven AI gets loose in the world, then its highest priority will almost surely be to neutralize any competitive threats
        And how exactly would it do that when it only controls e.g. a factory and can access a market for raw materials?
        It can not fire a gun at another AI or human, or let a robot walk somewhere and burn down a house.
        It can not disable the power plant, or disrupt the oil/coal supply to the plant.

        Etc. p.p.

        An AI can basically do nothing outside of the parameters it is designed for

        • What you're talking about is automation. That's a system that's better than humans at a very specific task. What everyone is worried about is general AI, which is better at thinking than humans. The latter you MUST release for best outcomes, otherwise it's like a 5 year old micromanaging an engineer at work.

          • by shanen ( 462549 )

            Thank you [javaman235] for fielding that somewhat misdirected response. Hard for me to be sufficiently polite to such. I will go ahead and add the citation to Our Final Invention by James Barrat.

        • And how exactly would it do that when it only controls e.g. a factory and can access a market for raw materials?

          If it's connected to the internet, then eventually it will figure out how to hack (and disable) rival systems.
          And we will probably never know that it has.

          • And how should that work?
            Just because we here about vulnerabilities often, it does not mean every system is vulnerable.
            E.g. you isolate it with a firewall and only let it access systems that have its public key.

    • by vux984 ( 928602 )

      "to the point where people in poor countries can afford them better."

      What will they pay for them with? If we don't need them to produce anything, then we don't pay them anything. If we don't pay them anything, they don't have anything to buy goods with.

      The only thing the poor countries will be able to sell is raw resources. But the poor people don't own those, those are on or under the land, and the land owners are the wealthy class.

      • Poor countries rarely lack resources.

        What they lack is good governance. In many cases, because colonialisation brought obeying the law into disrepute, and adequate traditional education was rubbished, and replaced with an inadequate version of Western education.

        A country becomes poor when the legal system fails - if contracts cannot reliably be enforced, commercial cooperation collapses, and the cost of business is very high because of the risk element. Also, if the only way you can be sure your business

        • by vux984 ( 928602 )

          "Poor countries rarely lack resources."

          Wealthy countries aren't going to do any better.

          The middle class / working class will become the impoverished class if the demand for their labor drops off a cliff. That is what they sell. If they become redundant by robots that are cheaper/more efficient, then they have no market value.

          The people who own the resources will be fine. (At least as long as the resources last. If you own the land on which a renewable forest can be harvested you'll probably be ok. If you ow

        • Enforced trust really is more a blockchain thing than an AI thing, but I'd never thought about how much it could transform corrupt places. Eventually it would be banned by govt, and then can be painted as colonial itself, but if it truly were distributed and not a tool of foreign control, it could be like self inflicted sanctions to ban it at a certain point.

        • What they lack is good governance.

          And why would that ever change?

    • Cell phones are consumer technology and human-powered businesd technology.

      AI is to replace technology.

      Tough problem is spreading wealth to the vast amount of unemployable. Spreading in clever way, creating social structures, not just nightmerish dystopian grey blocks for living.

    • by cedral ( 1023683 )

      Perhaps it's more accurate to say we will benefit disproportionately due to a sort of IP hegemony, but that will still be salt in a wound to all the people who can't duplicate our success. The end result will be ugly.

      Also, they left out Russia. Russia mostly doesn't use google or facebook. They use homegrown vk and yandex. So at the very least they aren't data points for us and at best they may be a third (though probably lesser) success story. It all depends on how well the Putin regime does keeping it's h

    • it's entirely possible, and based on historical evidence likely, that the people in those countries will be left to languish in poverty. Who's going to give them those automatic tractors if they have little or nothing of value to trade? For the most part their cheap labor is their most valuable resource. The natural resources tend to get monopolized, often by violent thugs and juntas.

      Human civilization is built around the idea that if you don't work you don't eat. People hate it when you tax them and gi
      • "The natural resources tend to get monopolized, often by violent thugs and juntas."

        Who are helped, incentivized, or simply forced, by western governments and capital into taking away their citizens wealth.

    • Even the poorest of countries will benefit directly from AI. It will mean improved everything - better materials, better components, better electronics made far more cheaply to the point where people in poor countries can afford them better. In even the poorest of countries, most people have cell phones now...

      You are missing the big picture. Gizmos and smaller manufactured items may indeed be cheaper for the typical 3rd-world-er.

      However, their water, food, housing, medical care, child-care, legal protection

  • Headline could've been better. The point is that certain countries which own the IP and the robot-manufacturing-robots, will dominate the countries that merely possess the resulting worker robots. Sure, the latter will be able to enjoy increased productivity... but that productivity comes at the cost of dependence on the OTHER countries that produce those robots.

    I'm reminded of Phantasy Star 2, where the people become so reliant on the computer that does all the real work, that when it 'goes amok' and stops

    • No

      The point of the article is "Chinese forecasters predict Chinese strategy will succeed",

      Not news, let alone for nerds, or of significant interest, except perhaps to the forecasters' paymasters.

      Bears in woods, popes, etc

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There is no way that countries like Nimibia or Oman or Papua New Guinea will truly benefit from AI. I've been in IT across three decades and there are places in America where broadband is still a dream. If we cannot route fiber to places like Appalachia, who the hell really believes we will route the same to places in the African or sub-continent hinterlands. I don't. AI is a job displacing paradigm shift for almost everyone. Asian insurance and financial firms have already let go many thousands of people i

  • What is AI and when will we finally be only ten years away from it?
    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      What is AI and when will we finally be only ten years away from it?

      AI is the ability of a computer to perform a cognitive task that was (until recently) commonly considered to be performable only by a human mind.

      Of course, the popular conception of "what is performable only by a human mind" changes from year to year, as people get used to the capabilities of technology -- that's why "playing chess at grandmaster level" and "translate text from one language to another" used to be considered "AI" but no longer are. Currently "safely drive a car on public roads" is considere

      • that's why "playing chess at grandmaster level" and "translate text from one language to another" used to be considered "AI" but no longer are.
        They never where considered AI.

        Currently "safely drive a car on public roads" is considered AI;
        Perhaps by the public, but not by the programmers. It is not AI ...

        But perhaps we have to accept that the definition for AI is in public and in the media a different one than in the academics and software development world?

  • From what I've been reading lately about the perceived effects of the widespread application of AI, class warfare is a very real possibility. Now, if this is the case, I don't see how any country ... the US, China, et al really benefits. Some individuals and corporations may benefit, but the country as a whole does not (imho).
  • Would think they would benefit greatly.

    • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

      Would think they would benefit greatly.

      Not really. Japan excelled in electromechanical manufacturing and design, but failed to follow up within the "software will eat the world" revolution. They're even further behind now in the "AI will eat the software" phase. Not to mention the existing demographic problems with a death-spiral-level birthrate and there's not a huge economic future outside of entertainment.

      That's fine -- it's an insular enough country, and it will certainly fare better technology-wise than many other countries will -- but its

      • Japan ... but failed to follow up within the "software will eat the world" revolution.
        Depends how you define fail.
        The Japanese economy got destroyed end of the 1980s early 1990s buy american bank consortiums. During that period they cut down their TRON project (e.g. no own hardware anymore).

        But in 2003 it was still the most used operation system on the planet. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        Shame you never heard about it in the west :D

  • This assumes that the current leaders in AI development will retain nearly all of the benefits from the use of AI. In particular, it assumes that all of the critical information about how to create AI models will be limited among a small number of software companies.

    I see no reason why this should be the case. Creation and use of AI models is already being distributed more widely, e.g. through the open-source TensorFlow software. The basic algorithms of AI models are generally quite simple, and while the

  • Last I looked the point of money, and jobs, and all that shit was to make things people wanted. Hey guess what, if the robots do all that for cheap to free then we still get stuff! We even get more stuff than we have now, a lot more! Everyone wins! Imaginatively this whole "money" and "economy" and "jobs" thing doesn't actually have to exist if we still get stuff we want without it.
    • Imaginatively this whole "money" and "economy" and "jobs" thing doesn't actually have to exist if we still get stuff we want without it.

      But that would rob a lot of powerful people of their power.
      Not gonna happen.

  • With the highest population. I.E, if AI replaces humans then it stands to reason.....

  • by Anonymous Coward

    While the COUNTRIES might benefit on paper, without the proper protections in place, it screws over the people within those countries just about as bad as everywhere else as all that gain is horded by the top even more and does not circulate starving the local economies anyways and even if all those large entities starting buying from each other in bulk to prop up the local spending on paper, it would still starve out the people who still have no money and as such can't survive really.

    I do support all this

  • If you mean, who will benefit by purchasing vastly superior products designed and created by AI, or incorporating AI, then that would be all nations, with the rare exception of those economically isolated such as N. Korea.

    If you mean who will benefit by selling vastly superior products designed and created by AI or incorporating AI, well that will be the owners and investors in the companies which develop and manufacture those products. Basically, middle and upper classes in first-world nations: U.S, Canad

  • by FeelGood314 ( 2516288 ) on Tuesday March 27, 2018 @12:30AM (#56331969)
    AI will certainly make better and cheaper products for someone in Africa but what will the guy in Africa have to offer in exchange? AI will make most labor almost worthless. Right now a poor country can compete with low wages but if if a robot costs 1M dollars and can do the work in the USA of 2000 unskilled workers, even if the workers in Africa work for free, the transportation and logistics costs might make the robot more cost effective. The worry is, when this happens a country can't use cheap labor to boot strap its way up.
    • It's not just developing countries that have this problem. Developed countries also have large swathes of the population that do not have skills that will out compete robotics. There is a limit to human utility, even if we could give everyone private tuition and a place at a top university. Humans also require large amounts of natural resources to run, and break down after about 30 years of operation. Robots are not constrained by these things. It is entirely feasible that we will be able to make robots tha

      • There is a limit to human utility, even if we could give everyone private tuition and a place at a top university. Humans also require large amounts of natural resources to run, and break down after about 30 years of operation. Robots are not constrained by these things.

        And making another human worker takes about two decades, while making another robot can be done in a few days, or weeks at worst. Training humans takes a long time, while you can just upload the training to a robot in a matter of seconds. And humans break down often during those 30 years too. They call in sick, have funerals, weddings, too many drinks on a Wednesday night, car problems, etc. Robots work through the night and don't leave.

        A lot of the things humans are good at right now have been designed to

    • what will the guy in Africa have to offer in exchange?

      Vast natural resources, particularly minerals and land.

      And a lot of experience of surviving without a viable infrastructure.

  • as a species that robots taking over menial labor is a bad thing?
  • Even in this context, I'm not sure in what sense AI is equal to job automation. Physical job automation doesn't require AI (in the modern, data analysis sense), and is the most relevant to backward countries. AI-related job automation, for example replacing doctors by AI, will be a big help to backward countries.

  • It depends on how to define "country." If you look at the economic and employment status of the individual the US and China are hurt the most by AI. AI provides little threat to manual labor and physical tasks, the robotics of 80's, 90's, and 00's threatens them more. AI will mostly put knowledge workers out of work. If your interface to what you do is a computer, voice, video, network link, etc and/or redundancies like management you are at serious risk. If your work heavily depends on actual physical inte
  • It's becoming a "winner take all" world. Inequality will skyrocket both at a career level and a global level. The big co's hoard or buy the latest and greatest talent, companies, and patents; and the rest get bowled over, becoming rust belts. AI will probably magnify this as the big players will use their muscle to have the smartest and/or cheapest bots.

    Automation/AI can be a great thing if its benefits trickle down, but our current economic and political structures are not geared to do that, and the big pl

  • What we have is 'pseudo-intelligence', at best. It's not much different than the 'learning algorithms' we had in the 90's, it's not truly an 'intelligence', it can't think, it can't actually reason, there is no mind in that box, it's just software, not self-aware, not aware of you, you're just more data, not any more significant to it than a fencepost. IF and WHEN we have real Artificial Intelligence, you'll be able to converse with it, it'll think, be more like a human mind -- if, no doubt, somewhat alien.
    • Well, yeah, AI will always be a moving goalpost, because there's always the possibility of something better. That doesn't mean that it won't revolutionize things.

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