During President Trump’s visit to Beijing, he appeared on screen for a special address at a tech conference. First he spoke in English. Then he switched to Mandarin Chinese.
The video was a publicity stunt, designed to show off the voice capabilities of iFlyTek, a Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) company. As China tests the frontiers of AI, iFlyTek serves as a compelling example of both the country’s scifi ambitions and the technology’s darker dystopian possibilities.
At the same time, iFlyTek hosts a laboratory to develop voice surveillance capabilities for China’s domestic security forces. In an October report, a human rights group said the company was helping the authorities compile a biometric voice database of Chinese citizens that could be used to track activists and others. Those tight ties with the government could give iFlyTek and other Chinese companies an edge in an emerging new field.
China’s financial support and its loosely enforced and untested privacy laws give Chinese companies considerable resources and access to voices, faces and other biometric data in vast quantities, which could help them develop their technologies, experts say.
China “does not have the stringent privacy laws that Western companies have, nor are Chinese citizens against having their data collected, as (arguably speaking) government monitoring is a fact of China,” analysts with the research firm Sanford C Bernstein wrote in a report in November.
Already, China’s companies have at times edged out foreign rivals. IFlyTek and other Chinese companies say they follow China’s laws and protect user data. But they agree that the sheer number of users in China, plus the government’s single-minded drive to dominate the new technology, puts them at an advantage.
“China has entered the artificial intelligence age together with the US,” said Liu Qingfeng, iFlyTek’s chairman, at the Beijing conference. “But due to the advantage of a huge amount of users and China’s social governance, AI will develop faster and spread from China to the world.”
An iFlyTek spokeswoman said the company had yet to receive required permission from officials in Anhui, the Chinese province where it is based, to speak with the foreign news media.
Original article on indiatimes