How Artificial Intelligence Is Edging Its Way Into Our Lives


At Stanford, Ms. Li was instrumental in the recent rise of “computer vision” systems that can recognize people and objects entirely on their own. At Google, she is working to package and sell these and other systems as cloud computing services, delivering the latest A.I. technology to a wide range of businesses.

But she said that as Google and other internet giants pushed these techniques forward, academia and the government must help ensure that A.I. evolved into something that enhanced our humanity, created as many jobs as it replaced and operated in safe and predictable ways.

In particular, Ms. Li said, academic institutions can help ensure that computer scientists work alongside social scientists in building this new breed of technology.

“A.I. has outgrown its origin in computer science,” she said.

Ultimately, said Ms. Li, who was born in China, A.I. reflects the people who build it more than other technologies do. For that reason and others, she said, A.I. researchers must work in a way that spans not only many industries but many cultures as well.

“I really believe there are no borders for science,” she said. — Cade Metz

Why American tech companies struggle in China

Tuesday’s first speaker at the New Work Summit was Kai-Fu Lee, who used to lead Google in China and knows a thing or two about American tech giants in China. His prognosis about whether companies like Facebook will ever be able to crack the world’s largest internet market?

“The American products are simply uncompetitive in the China market,” said Mr. Lee, who is now chief executive of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on Chinese technology. Even if internet titans from the United States could operate in China, he said, the local competition means they would have a hard time thriving.

“Messenger is a much worse product than WeChat,” he said, referring to Facebook’s messaging app and Tencent’s ubiquitous app for chatting, social networking, making payments and other tasks.

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A health care robot on display during the IFlyTek conference on A.I., held in Beijing in November.

Credit
Giulia Marchi for The New York Times

“Amazon in China is substantially worse than Taobao, JD and Tmall,” he said, referring to three leading Chinese e-commerce sites. And, he said, “Apple Pay is much narrower and much harder to use than WeChat or Alipay.”

Mr. Lee sees other issues that augur against a big Facebook or Google renaissance in China. Multinational companies tend not to hire local managers to lead their China operations. “They’re not concerned about winning in the local market,” he said.

Also, young Chinese these days would rather work for national champions like Alibaba or Tencent. Pitted against Chinese start-ups and big companies, where the hours tend to be long and the work culture cutthroat, the leading lights of American tech would get “get eaten for lunch.” — Raymond Zhong

Trump administration silent on A.I.

Last year, the Chinese government unveiled a plan to become the world leader in artificial intelligence by 2030, vowing to create a domestic industry worth $150 billion. This manifesto read like a challenge to the United States, and in many ways it echoed policies laid down by the Obama administration in 2016.

But as China pushes ahead in this area, many experts are concerned that the Trump administration is not doing enough to keep the United States ahead in the future. Although the big United States internet giants are leading the A.I. race, these experts believe the country as a whole could fall behind if does not do more to nurture research inside universities and government labs. — Cade Metz

Waymo C.E.O. ‘really happy’ with Uber settlement

John Krafcik, chief executive of the self-driving car company Waymo, took the stage at the New Work Summit on Monday night and spoke out for the first time since his company reached a settlement last week with Uber in a lawsuit over trade secrets that riveted Silicon Valley.

“We were really happy with the outcome that we engineered,” Mr. Krafcik said. “We spent a lot of time in that case talking about the hardware, but the extra benefit we got from that suit was the ability to understand and ensure that Uber wasn’t using any of our software.”

He called the software Waymo’s “secret sauce.”