Kai-Fu Lee on the Race for Artificial Intelligence

Kai-Fu Lee tells Hari Sreenivasan how the race for artificial intelligence will reshape the world.

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You've worked in artificial intelligence for a long time.

You talk about nine different phases.

You've got the sort of Internet phase in business you call it the eyes and ears and then the hands and feet.


Explain that evolution.


Today we are already surrounded by Internet AI that is AI being used within the Amazon Google Facebook.

In fact this is how they've become so valuable because they take the data that we provide and our actions and use that to maximize their revenue or user benefit or some combination.

That's the natural for that because they have the most data.

The next step will be businesses.

So banks insurance hospitals and so on will collect data in we'll have data in their domains and they can use it to make better decisions about credit card fraud detection long approval's investment allocation and so on.

But these are both Phase 1 Phase 2 are both based on existing are being generated big data are being generated.

The third phase is when the AI has eyes and years and they can see and here.

So Amazon go Amazon Echo are examples of that but that's going to be everywhere as devices become cheaper and sensors are embedded everywhere along with the Internet of Things.

Adding to this network capturing the physical world and doing things that couldn't be done before such as an autonomous store without any human involvement.

Then the last phase of the fourth phase is the autonomous AI phase where the hands and feet are added.

For example AI can decide on making loans to people what kind of insurance policies to issue can be added with computer vision and robotics and.

Build the self driving autonomous vehicles or machines that can manufacture a future products without human involvement or even autonomous agriculture.

Picking up fruits and vegetables and strawberries.

So really taking over all the routine jobs we have.

You just rattled off for different industries all the loan officers in the world all the drivers in the world all the pickers of the crops.

These are.

You're talking about a seismic shift you're talking about billions of unemployed people.

If all of these jobs go away.

[00:02:30] Yes.

And the good news is that this will generate amazing efficiency and the phenomenal phenomenal amount of wealth.

That will help.

Move us forward.

And the question is what happens to those unemployed people.

How is the redistribution of wealth and the retraining for the new jobs or early retirement or a shift to voluntaryism can transition the works out so that people can continue productively and happily.

How does our education system change to prepare for this.

So the education system has to stop guiding people towards the jobs that have no future.

So even vocational schools have to rethink.

Are we going to have as many auto mechanics or truck drivers.

We're not but we might still have a large number of plumbers because I can't handle the variations of environments.

And we're going to need more elderly care more nurses more teachers.

So the entire job mix will change and education should change along with it.

In the book you lay out almost a four quadrant matrix of the types of jobs that will be most likely to be replaced or are being replaced now and the types that are least replaceable.


So if we look at this defensively what are the things I cannot do.

That's what we should put our energies.

AI cannot be creative.

And AI cannot be compassionate.

Those are the two biggest core pillars.

There are other things but these are the two core things.

So the four quadrant would correspond to four types of human AI symbiosis.

So for the highly creative highly compassionate jobs AI doesn't have a chest the best tools to help us do better in those jobs for the jobs that are highly creative but doesn't require human interaction or compassion.

Then humans will continue to create with AI becoming tools to help them be more creative.

Let's say scientists might discover more drugs for the jobs that are highly interactive with human component compassion empathy but not that creative.

Those are the kinds of jobs where AI analytical engines will become dominant but humans will really wrap their warmth and connectivity around it.

For example doctors teachers that they'll make the professions more effective and leverage the AI tools and be able to reach out to more people that way.

So how does a doctor's job change in 20 years with let's say an AI assistant.

I think that doc.

Yes I think the doctor's job will change into that of interacting with a patient understanding the patient's history teasing out all of the necessary ingredients to make a good diagnosis have the make the patient feel listened to and then have to rely on the AI to make the possible diagnosis and the doctor can potentially override.

In the beginning but over time they will be so much better.

The doctor is going to be mainly the human communication tool to offer warmth compassion care confidence and that outcome means the type of healthcare that we're able to get today can be provided to all the poor regions and countries at a much lower cost.

Your book is called the superpowers.

And there's a lot of concern on the balance between who has a lead and where is the edge.

Do they overtake each other and whose at advantage here.

You start out by saying that look China is not in the lead right now but we're accelerating and catching up at an incredibly fast pace.


led all the technology research and it's actually openly publish and share.

So China like every other country has an opportunity to take those some algorithms and implement them.

The China advantage is that China has a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of capital to fund them and they work extremely hard and are tenacious in finding every business opportunity in phases 1 2 3 and 4 of AI and but most importantly China has a lot more data than everyone else because all this AI is automatically learning based on data the more data you have the better your AI is.

And China has more users and also more data per user.

So the companies that are being built in China has an inherent advantage of having more more data and therefore training better AI.

Given that there's so much data being generated in China on facial recognition and on your shopping habits.

Where does privacy come into the mix.

There are clear laws that would forbid companies from sharing or selling the data.

So actually the Facebook Cambridge Analytica case would have been more seriously prosecuted and more people would be put into jail for illegally sharing private data.

However the collection by a company of where you went your shared bicycle or what you bought on your mobile phone is not so different from what Visa and Google and open table have about about the American consumers.

It's just that the speed of adoption is faster.

I think ultimately every country has to figure out how to balance privacy personal safety convenience these things can't all be perfectly had.

Are you concerned about the size of companies getting too big and leaving people out whether it's Google and Facebook and Amazon here could be Tencent or Alibaba and China.

Yes Yes I am.

I think there is a virtuous cycle for them because more data builds better products makes more money then more machines even more data that virtuous cycle makes monopolies harder to break.

Traditionally monopolies were.

Were there because of exclusive access to resources a great brand.

User loyalty or technology edge or high hurdle of entry.

But now the AI can add this virtuous cycle.

So I think we need to be cautious about the companies that are getting too powerful.

I think there's still plenty of room for innovation and entrepreneurship in areas that are not currently dominant in.

It used to be the picture was two guys in a garage coming up with a better mousetrap or something better than two young women in a dorm room.

Build something that challenges Alibaba or Amazon.

I think so.

I think what they can invent a brand new application and that will over time coming to competition and challenge sort of like how Facebook became kind of a threat to Google at times.

Kind of how actually in China Baidu was the big company and then Tencent and Alibaba emerged.

So I think the new companies can challenge old ones but probably and generally not indirectly going into a market in which a nearly monopolistic position is already there.

I want to ask you this question.

As both somebody who understands both of these cultures growing up in Tennessee working in China being Chinese and also as an investor the last six months to a year have been a low point the relationship between the United States and China.

We're right now engaged in a trade war.

How well how do you see this playing out.

Well I think U.S.

and China have such mutual dependencies in technology that a continued trade war would just be a lose lose.

And I also it's a very saddened for me because.

I think there's a huge affinity by the Chinese people for America.

As China opened up it looked to the market economy in the U.S.

It looked to Bill Gates as their heroes.

And actually if you go back further historically there's the American flying tigers of World War II.

There's Americans donating Cheen while University the best school in China.

So all that goodwill I think is seems to be melting away from the U.S.


And I think that would be such a pity.

And all of us my colleagues who have benefited from the great American education.

So there is every reason for us and China to work together because of the already intermingled technology situation and for such strong affinity coming from China towards us.

And whatever the governments want to argue and fight over I sure hope the American people understand there are one point three billion people who would love to be America's friend.

You've said that it took a horrible stage 4 cancer diagnosis for you to learn to slow down and you're actually evangelizing in a way for other companies in China to create a different kind of work culture.

I am trying to do that.

I don't expect to be completely successful.

I think the forces of the generations of poverty and the hunger for success is too much too and too insurmountable.

But I I do see in my personal case I was working as hard as the entrepreneurs that my company funded.

And only when I got sick that I realized that all the money and fame cannot buy back my health or the love of my family.

So I came to a realization by facing death and I wanted to share that experience with the people those people who will listen.

The book is called a superpowers China Silicon Valley and New World Order Kifle thanks for joining us.

Thank you.

About This Episode EXPAND

Christiane Amanpour interviews David Kaplan, author of “The Most Dangerous Branch” & Carolyn Maloney, U.S. House Democrat; and Anthony Hopkins actor in “King Lear.” Hari Sreenivasan interviews Kai-Fu Lee, author of “AI Super-Powers.”