Baidu, the tech giant often referred to as the ‘Chinese Google’ has become the first Chinese company to join the Partnership on AI. The Partnership has existed for 2 years now after it was set up by a consortium of some of the biggest U.S. companies involved in developing the latest technology in the world of AI. Its formation was a response to concerns that advanced AI technology could, potentially, become a threat. Its aim is to ‘devise safeguards’ around the development of AI algorithms that would prevent them from being used maliciously or unethically.
However, while the Partnership has expanded to around 50 companies, many also from outside of the USA, there has until now been no representative from among China’s leading tech companies, several of whom are now among the largest and most influential in the world. They are also the greatest concentration of AI intellectual property and R&D outside of the USA and the Chinese government has the stated target of the country becoming the global leader in AI technology.
As such, a global organisation of companies, research groups and civil society organisations designed to ensure the safety and control of AI technology being developed with no Chinese representation is of debatable use. It is hoped that Baidu coming into the fold, the company runs China’s dominant search engine, will represent the first step along the road of bringing other major Chinese tech companies into the fold and international cooperation around defusing the potential dangers inherent in the quickly developing sophistication of AI technology.
As well as representing a Chinese parallel to Google’s search engine market domination, Baidu is also heavily invested in the driverless car technology sector. Waymo, the driverless vehicle unit of Google-parent Alphabet, is considered to lead the western market’s move into the technology. Similarly, Baidu’s Apollo is one of the most ambitious driverless car projects in China, which is expected to be the most valuable market in the world for the new tech sector.
Baidu’s accession to the Partnership on AI was announced in a statement that quoted the company’s president Ya-Qin Zhang as saying:
“As AI technology keeps advancing and the application of AI expands, we recognise the importance of joining the global discussion around the future of AI.”