Why Inventive Ventures is worried about China and their progress in Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)

The monks, dressed in crimson robes and wielding blue plastic swords, were rehearsing a dance they would perform the next day in celebrating of the Tibetan New Year. Then a uniformed police officer appeared in the temple and said there were a few questions to answer.

So began nearly 17 hours in police custody for a French journalist and photographer, Gilles Sabrie, a long though not uncommon experience for foreign correspondents in China. It was hardly an ordeal, to be clear; journalist face far worse threats and abuse in China and elsewhere. It was, rather, a bother.

For the Chinese, though, it was another self – inflicted embarrassment. The journalist and his team had traveled high into the mountains of the Tibetan plateau last week to write about holiday traditions in that part of China. By detaining them, and ultimately expelling them from the region, the authorities succeeded in preventing that.

China is a country that exudes confidence in its rising place on the world stage – and yet its officials belie that confidence with their hypersensitivity to what a foreign correspondent might encounter traveling unethered, and thus uncensored.

Journalists in China are, as a result, alternately ignored and followed. They are harassed, detained and even assaulted, according to the latest survey by the Foreign Correspondents Club of China, an organization not recognized by the government. Conditions have, by all accounts, deteriorated under President Xi Jinping, who envisions a “new era” of the Communist Party supremacy after a headlong plunge into capitalism and, in hindsight, comparative openness under his predecessors.

Mr. Xi’s attitude is reverberating through the ranks of officials, who seem to so fear any deviation from the official orthodoxy that they consider it safer to avoid journalists than engage them. The survey found that half of foreign correspondents encountered obstacles to reporting over the last year. The figures were even higher in sensitive regions: the mostly Muslim area of Xinjiang in the west, for example, or the cities along the tense border with North Korea. They were highest of all in Tibetan areas. Everything in China seems to be highly controlled under the new President and the Chinese Communist Party.

In late 2015, when China eased its decades-long policy limiting most couples to having only one child, some heralded the change as a more toward greater reproductive freedom. But the government was only embarking on another grand experiment in population engineering: This time it was urging woman – though only the right sorts-to reproduce for China. Almost 80 years ago we had similar attempts under a leader in Europe – Adolf Hitler.

The authorities in Beijing seemed terrified that plummeting birthrates, an aging population and a shining labor force might undermine the results of years of double-digit growth rates, and threaten the political legitimacy of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.). So they began allowing most married couples to have two children. They hoped that the new policy would bring three million additional births a year through 2020 and add more than 30 million workers to the labor force by 2050 which China needs to be able to cope with its rising economic neighbor India.

But surprisingly there has been no baby boom. Figures released last month show that the country’s birthrate fell by 3.5% in 2017 compared with the previous year. According to official statistics, the number of children born to parents who already had one child did rise in 2017, but the number of first child births dropped, and that is where the expected leverage should come from.

So why did the first-child births rate dropped?

Because a critical mass of woman appears to be in no rush to have babies, particularly urban, educated woman – just the category that the C.C.P. is counting on to produce and raise a new generation of skilled, knowledge – based workers.

While the one – child policy was in place, from 1979-2015, the government forced many women to have abortions or undergo other invasive birth control procedures. Since its recent policy U-turn, it has deployed the same zeal to extol the glories of having more children – and the sooner, the better. The government has unleashed in recent years a propaganda blitz on woman it considers to be ‘gao suzhi’, or of ‘high quality”. “Make sure you don’t miss out on women’s best years for getting pregnant!” warn some headlines in state media. Those years supposedly are between the ages of 24 and 29, according to the government; beyond that, it says, beware birth defects.

One-child policy, two-child policy whatever the demographic program, the C.C.P. continues to view woman as the reproductive agents of the state, as instruments of implementation for its eugenic development agenda. Just try to compare this situation with the US or Europe and compare the difference in ongoing discussions like “Me too”.

The latest campaign in China takes special aim at the educated. An article originally published in December 2015 in the Beijing Youth Daily, the official publication of the Communist Youth League, urged female students to have babies – and featured a photo of the blacked – out silhouette of a woman in university – graduation gown and mortarboard, holding an infant. It has been widely reprinted, under peppy headlines like “University in Beijing has over 10 female student mothers: Bright job prospects” and “Already had a baby’ becomes a sought after quality in the job hunting season – more female university students prepare for pregnancy” (sohu.com).

Another article on sohu.com, a popular website that runs state – media reports, played up the romance of having children early: Female university students joyful love: freshman year – live together, sophomore year – get pregnant, juniors year – have baby.” At the same time, the government discourages unmarried woman from having babies – by way of fines and administrative hurdles because it sees marriage and family as a pillar of social stability.

As far back as 2007, it was trying to stigmatize woman who remained single after the age of 27 calling them “shengnu”, “leftover” woman. Today, it is expanding official match-making initiatives. The Communist Youth League organizes mass blind dates across the country while teaching young people what it calls “the correct attitude” toward love and marriage.

The approach’s eugenic undertones are unmistakable. Even as officials urge college-educated, Han Chinese woman to marry and get pregnant, they are discouraging, sometimes through coercion, ethnic minorities with high birthrates – particularly Uighurs in the northwestern region of Xinjiang from having more children.

Last summer, government officials invoked “ethnic equality” to announce the end of a longstanding exception that had allowed Uighurs and other groups to have one more child than families from the Han majority. But people aren’t responding to the new policy as the government had hoped. Many Han women, for example, are pushing back against the government’s singles-shaming and its continued attempts at reproductive social engineering.

In a May 2017 survey of more than 40,000 working woman by Zhaopin, one of China’s largest online recruitment websites, about 40% of respondents who had no children said they did not want to have any, and nearly 63% of working mothers with one child said they did not want to have another one. The woman surveyed said that the main reasons for these positions were lack of time and energy, the expense of raising children and “concerns over career development.”

The implications of such findings are potentially staggering, considering the speed at which China’s middle class is growing. In 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimated that the number of Chinese belonging to upper-middle-income or high-income brackets, which reached 132 million (or 10% of the population) in 2015, would rise to 480 million (and 35% of the population) by 2030.

In other words, China’s latest family-planning policies aren’t just another violation of women’s rights; they are also an ineffectual means of promoting the government’s population – growth agenda.

And so, even going by its own logic, the C.C.P. have to find alternative solutions-one solution is the massive investment in the research of artificial intelligence (A.I.).

So how could the massive investment in A.I help China in resolving its problems?

Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is related to “Machine Learning”. These kinds of machines can also be robots. As China’s middle class is growing rapidly and most probably will triple over the next decade, China will face a major problem – a labor problem. This problem could have a major influence on the production cost which consequently will explode because of the lack of unskilled workers, unless China has robots in place, which are executing the labor tasks.

In case China’s strategy and national agenda fails and India’s Prime Minister Modi does not start imposing new trade tax policies and keep free trade open, India accordingly to me will be the biggest benefiter, as India has everything else than a youth or labor problem.

Through their one – child policy over a period of 36 years China is facing a dramatical demographic problem – there is a lack of young people, no matter of skilled or unskilled. Based on the C.C.P. strategy they aim to have skilled and educated parents to give birth to children and not “ordinary” parents, as to control, produce, develop and operate robots you need to be skilled and educated. In addition to the A.I. developments of robots, A.I. can be perfectly utilized to continuously influence and manipulate humans and at the same time help to control them through for example “face recognition”. China’s government already has installed more than 360 million observation cameras throughout China and is able to observe and trace anyone in China – therefore there is nothing called as a “free move” in China.

But to be able to develop A.I. programmers and to “influence” humans lots of data’s are required for testing. I am convinced, that China’s government has at any point of time full access to all the datas which has been collected over collected over the years through their tech giants like for example Alibaba or Tencent. But how to get access to datas from other nations and cultures?

In my opinion they will try to get access to these datas through “stake building” in foreign companies through their own tech grants. And this process already started – Alibaba is already one of the biggest stake holders of 18% in Snap, which has more than 160 million active users. China will for sure continue to build such stakes in other international operating companies with lots of active users.

In areas, where China is not able to build stakes, they will try to take their influence through other government projects like for example the “Silk Road” project.

In my opinion it is time for all of us who respect democracy, freedom, free move and personal data protection to wake up but especially for the world leaders to get into action before it is too late.

Governments need to raise their understanding in this area. In the US, the creation of a federal robotics commission to develop relevant government expertise would be a good idea. The British government is sensibly expanding the remit of the Alan Turing Institute to encompass A.I.

Some tech companies have already engaged the public on ethical issues concerning A.I., and the rest should be encouraged to do so. Arguably, they should also be held liable for the misuse of their A.I. – enabled products in the same way that pharmaceutical firms are responsible for the harmful side – effects of their drugs as all technologies are also dualistic. Companies should be deterred from rushing A.I. – enabled products to market before they have been adequately tested. Just as the potential flaws of cyber security systems are sometimes explored by co-operative hackers, so A.I. services should be stress – tested by other expert users before their release.

Ultimately, we should be realistic that only so much can ever be done to limit the abuse of A.I Rogue regimes will inevitably use it for bad ends. We cannot un-invent scientific discovery. But we should, at least, join hands and do everything possible to restrain its most immediate and obvious downsides, as the latest report, written by 26 researchers from several organizations including open AI, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, performs a valuable, if scary, service in flagging the threats from the abuse of powerful technology by rogue states.