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In a key AI metric, China is ahead of the United States: talent

When it comes to the artificial intelligence that powers chatbots like ChatGPT, China is lagging behind the United States. But when it comes to training the scientists behind a new generation of humanoid technologies, China is ahead.

New research shows that China has, by some metrics, eclipsed the United States as the largest producer of AI talent, with the country producing nearly half of the world's top AI researchers. In contrast, about 18 percent come from undergraduate institutions in the United States, according to the studyfrom MacroPolo, a think tank led by the Paulson Institute, which promotes constructive ties between the United States and China.

The results show a jump for China, which produces about a third of the best talents in the world three years earlier. The United States, on the other hand, has remained largely the same. The research is based on the track records of researchers whose papers were published at the 2022 Neural Information Processing Systems Conference. NeurIPS, as it is called, focuses on advances in neural networksthat have anchored recent developments in generative AI

The talent imbalance has been growing for nearly a decade. For much of the 2010s, the United States benefited from large numbers of great Chinese minds heading to American universities to earn doctorates. The majority of them remained in the United States. But the study shows that this trend has also started to reverse, with an increasing number of Chinese researchers remaining in China.

What happens in the coming years could be crucial as China and the United States vie for primacy in AI – a technology that can potentially increase productivity, strengthen industries and spur innovation – making researchers one of the most geopolitically important groups in the world. .

Generative AI has taken over the tech industry in Silicon Valley and China, sparking a funding and investment frenzy. This boom has been led by American tech giants such as Google and start-ups like OpenAI. This could attract Chinese researchers, although growing tensions between Beijing and Washington could also deter some, experts say.

(The New York Times for follow-up OpenAI and Microsoft for copyright infringement on news content related to AI systems.)

China has developed so much AI talent in part because it has invested heavily in AI education. Since 2018, the country has added more than 2,000 undergraduate AI programs, including more than 300 at its most prestigious universities, said Damien Ma, chief executive of MacroPolo, while emphasizing that the programs were not strongly focused on the technology that had enabled breakthroughs. by chatbots like ChatGPT.

“Many programs focus on AI applications in industry and manufacturing, and not so much on generative AI which currently dominates the US AI industry,” he said.

While the United States has been a pioneer in AI, most recently with the strange human abilities of chatbotsa significant portion of this work was carried out by researchers trained in China.

Researchers from China now make up 38% of top AI researchers working in the United States, with Americans making up 37%, according to the study. Three years earlier, Chinese made up 27% of top talent working in the United States, compared to 31% in the United States.

“The data shows how essential Chinese-origin researchers are in the United States to AI competitiveness,” said Matt Sheehan, a researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who studies Chinese AI.

He added that the data seemed to show that the United States remained attractive. “We are the global leader in AI because we continue to attract and retain talent from around the world, but particularly from China,” he said.

Pieter Abbeel, professor at the University of California at Berkeley and founder of Covariantan AI and robotics startup, said working alongside large numbers of Chinese researchers was taken for granted within leading U.S. companies and universities.

“It’s just a natural situation,” he said.

In the past, U.S. defense officials were not too concerned about AI talent flows from China, partly because many of the largest AI projects did not deal with classified data and partly because they thought it was better to have the best minds available. The fact that much of the cutting-edge AI research is published openly has also eased concerns.

Despite the bans introduced by the Trump administration which prohibit entry in the United States for students from some military-linked Chinese universities and a relative slowdown in the flow of Chinese students into the country during Covid, research has shown that many of the most promising minds in the IA continued to come to study in the United States.

But this month, a Chinese citizen who was an engineer at Google was accused of trying to transfer AI technology – including critical microchip architecture – to a Beijing-based company that paid him in secretaccording to a federal indictment.

The large number of Chinese AI researchers working in the United States now poses a dilemma for policymakers, who want to counter Chinese espionage without discouraging the continued flow of top Chinese computer engineers to the United States, according to researchers. experts specializing in American competitiveness.

“Chinese academics are almost leading the way in the field of AI,” said Subbarao Kambhampati, a professor and AI researcher at Arizona State University. If policymakers try to ban Chinese nationals from doing research in the United States, he said, they are “shooting themselves in the foot.”

The record of American policymakers is mixed. A policy of the Trump administration aimed at slowing down Chinese industrial espionage and intellectual property theft have since been criticized for mistakenly prosecuting a number of professors. Such programs, Chinese immigrants say, have encouraged some to stay in China.

For now, according to the study, most Chinese who complete their doctorates in the United States remain in the country, helping to make it the global center of the AI ​​world. Still, the U.S. lead has begun to erode, as it hosts about 42 percent of the world's top talent, compared with about 59 percent three years ago, according to the study.

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