ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Chinese Government AI is the new Japanese MegaCorp

The 1980s gave us Bladerunner, with its Japanese-inspired future paranoia. Today's Japan has not taken over the world; though that may change with Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group testing its own cryptocurrency, and Rakuten planning to tokenize $9 billion of loyalty points. But China is the new boogeyman, offering a rival vision of the world to Western consumer protection. Where Europe has GDPR, with its protected data categories, China uses each of those categories as swords -- to power omnipotent artificial intelligence machines that determine the educational, financial and social fate of citizens.

Take, for example, the news that schools are using video surveillance technology on students to monitor whether they are engaged or paying attention in class. Cameras built by Hikvision Technology, which uses the same software to prevent crime, leverage machine vision to apply Foucault's Panopticon to kids. That's only the entry drug. Data like this flows upstream into a government controlled reputation system, which is made of 4 pillars: “honesty in government affairs”, “commercial integrity”, “societal integrity” and “judicial credibility”. From cheating at video games to overdrawing your credit, all sins are remembered by the great machine, and come into play next time you apply to school, for a loan, or simply want to book a vacation. And since your only way to pay for things is with a tech-company messaging app, which uses government payment rails for the money, the sovereign appears impenetrable.

Maybe the West is just over-comfortable colonialists, mired in regulation and about to lose the next industrial revolution. Yes, more and more finance companies are using chatbots and modernizing their channels. But our reaction to accidents is to eradicate rather than lean in. Consider the freak case where an Alexa device in an Oregon woman's home misinterpreted background conversation as a series of instructions to send recordings of those conversations to a random contact in the address book (repeatedly). The customer is decidedly creeped out, and Amazon apologetic. At least these things aren't going to the CIA, right? We are going to have a hard decade.


Source: (Mitsubishi Bank), Reuters (school surveillance), Guardian (Chinese reputation machine),. Bloomberg (Payments rails), WSJ (Chatbots in finance), NBC (Alexa recordings)