Review: AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order

Kai-Fu Lee, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order is an important book. I read lots of books and can count on one hand those that have fundamentally altered my worldview. This is one of those books like Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West.

In The Death of the West, Pat Buchanan drew my attention to how Third World immigration, collapsing birthrates and multiculturalism were going to change the face of Western civilization in my lifetime as Whites become a demographic minority in the United States and Western Europe. After reading that book, I knew that this trend was going to be the story of my lifetime and that of my children. 18 years later, I am now a parent and the future that Buchanan predicted has started to arrive.

Virtually everyone who reads and comments on this website and who shares our politics is reacting to that fundamental long term trend – in the language of Silicon Valley, that “disruption” – which has continued to shape our times down to the present day. The rising populist and nationalist movement in the West is already furious about uncontrolled immigration, our ongoing cultural collapse into a race of deracinated trannies and the mounting job losses, stagnant wages, rising income inequality and the “gig economy” and loss of political power stemming from globalization. The movement is swelling as more people in isolated pockets of Middle America begin to encounter and experience the wonders of diversity for the first time. This is particularly true of regions like the Midwest which have been insulated from it.

At this point, this Chinese guy Kai-Fu Lee bursts into our sphere of the internet and announces that back in the mid-2000s a man named Geoffrey Hinton and a UK-based company called Deep Mind succeeded in developing a form of artificial intelligence, but that it wasn’t until 2012 that the power and significance of this new technology known as deep learning came to be fully understood. The field of artificial intelligence had been stuck in an ice age and was limited to science fiction movies for decades until it began to make rapid progress after this pivotal breakthrough. The “neural networks” approach, as opposed to the “rules-based approach,” which has proven so successful “mimics the brain’s underlying architecture, constructing layers of artificial neurons that can receive and transmit information in a structure aking to our networks of biological neurons.” Deep learning was created after AI researchers discovered a way to efficiently train layers of artificial neurons in multiple layers in neural networks.

We’re already accustomed to all sorts of machines that can do superhuman amounts of work like the mechanical cotton picker which “disrupted” the Southern economy by abolishing sharecropping between the 1940s and 1960s. The mechanical cotton picker, however, required a human to operate it. Deep learning will lead to machines that can see, that can recognize speech patterns, that can think, speak, understand, process and interpret information better than humans.

Imagine going outside and watching your tractor or mechanical cotton picker or your lawnmower just drive itself and do all the work for you. Imagine your car coming to pick you up and having a conversation with it as it drives you by itself across the State of North Carolina. Imagine never having to go to a doctor because doctors have been replaced by AI algorithms.

Welcome to the Brave New World of “narrow AI.”

Kai-Fu Lee categorizes deep learning as a general purpose technology and describes it as the electricity of the 21st century. It is one of four technologies in human history that have truly and profoundly changed the world the other three being the steam engine (First Industrial Revolution), electricity (Second Industrial Revolution) and computers (Third Industrial Revolution). Technological change has been a constant force in our history. We’re now about to go through the Fourth Industrial Revolution which is projected to be several orders of magnitude more destabilizing than the previous three.

For those who are worried about the loss of middle class manufacturing jobs to China, Kai-Fu Lee doesn’t believe that is what you should be worried about anymore. The factories are coming back to the United States, but like the Amazon distribution centers in the future will be staffed with little robots that operate in the dark and create pretty much everything by themselves under the supervision of human managers and robot repair technicians. Similarly, the strawberry fields which currently employ guest workers from Central America will by harvested by new machines powered by deep learning.

Just as steam, oil and coal powered the First Industrial Revolution and the Second Industrial Revolution, the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be powered by … you. The natural resource that drives machine learning and which is training “narrow AI” to perform all these tasks like self driving cars, balancing books, cooking food, picking strawberries, surgery and so on is DATA. The AI algorithms are being used to mine human experience in order to train an emerging slave race of robots to perform tasks in ways that are beyond the capabilities of human workers. The AI can sit there and sift through the abstracts of 3.3 million scientific papers to notice weak correlations that humans have missed.

The bulk of AI Superpowers is spent discussing the geopolitical implications of the implementation of deep learning in the global economy. Kai-Fu Lee makes a compelling argument that China will harness the power of deep learning to surpass the United States in our lifetimes. He starts out by noting that the technology has already been created and predicts we are decades away from “general AI.” The United States and China are now in a race to implement the technology.

Just as it ultimately didn’t matter where the iPhone was innovated, it doesn’t matter that deep learning was innovated in the West. The Chinese intend to surge ahead of the United States and capitalize on the technology to harness the economic benefits for their own people. The whole process is powered by DATA and there are 1.2 billion Chinese vs. 327 million Americans and China is already generating vastly more DATA than the United States. China is the Saudi Arabia of DATA.

China is already ahead of the United States in all sorts of ways. It is a homogeneous nation which has a culture and authoritarian government which isn’t completely dysfunctional and crippled by liberalism. This is why China now has thousands of miles of highspeed rail. It produces most of our electronics including the products which are “innovated” in the United States but employ virtually no American workers. Americans purchase items with credit cards – the technology of the 1960s – while the Chinese have leapfrogged ahead into mobile payments and 5G networks. Although Kai-Fu Lee never mentions it, nearly half of Americans will be black or Hispanic by 2043 and they aren’t going to compete with 1.2 billion Chinese in STEM jobs. The American elite is also waging war against its shrinking White majority. In contrast, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent aren’t waging war against the Chinese.

If semi-sentient robots powered by AI algorithms are about to start taking over all these jobs and there is nothing that can be done about it, what is going to happen to the American workforce as this new technology is rolled out into the economy over the next twenty to thirty years?

Kai-Fu Lee has been at the center of the AI world in the United States and China for the past forty years. He personally believes that 40 percent to 50 percent of American jobs will be automated as a result of deep learning. It could be even worse than that because most jobs won’t be destroyed outright. The number of tasks performed by human workers will shrink as they are replaced by AI and that could affect upwards of 80 percent of all American jobs. He describes it as a neverending flood which is likely to destroy ever more working class jobs as the technology improves. The Uber drivers and the truck drivers and the call center workers will be among the first to go. He predicts the white collar jobs will be hit first in four waves of AI – internet AI, business AI, perception AI and autonomous AI – and harder than working class jobs because it is easier for AI algorithms to process and interpret information than to create robots with fingers that can perform the dexterous work of a hotel maid.

Obviously, if what Kai-Fu Lee says in this book is true, then the inevitable result of this is going to be massive global social unrest. He doesn’t devote much time to the impact this is going to have on the Third World except to say that cheap labor as a development strategy is about to become obsolete. Economically speaking, China and the United States will separate from the rest of the world in the AI age and a mere seven global corporations – FAG in the United States, Facebook, Amazon and Google – will dominate this New World Order as millions of working class jobs are destroyed as capital effectively abolishes labor in the global economy. It isn’t clear how anyone in the future will have the money to buy all these wonderful new products. What are all these unemployed people going to do?

The truth is that no one has any clue. There isn’t any plan to deal with this. Most people in China assume the Chinese government is capable of handling the transition. In the United States, the plan is apparently to ignore the looming jobs crisis as long as possible. In Silicon Valley, the most popular solutions are job retraining, job sharing, a reduced work week and buying off populist discontent with Universal Basic Income. Andrew Yang is the only presidential candidate even talking about the crisis. Kamala Harris is getting more traction talking about reparations for slavery and forced busing.

Kai-Fu Lee sees Universal Basic Income as a comfort blanket – essentially, Silicon Valley has convinced itself it can destroy all these jobs and make all this money and buy off populist discontent by giving displaced white collar and blue collar workers a small allowance. Even if everyone was given a $1,000 a month though, that wouldn’t even come close to addressing the magnitude of the jobs crisis this is going to unleash in all the vast swathes of the country which aren’t producing AI scientists for the tech economy. He broods over the fact that the conventional wisdom of the 1990s that the internet age of the Third Industrial Revolution which was expected to create millions of new high paying jobs in the West for displaced manufacturing workers turned out to be a false hope.

In a future economy in which AI-powered robots have created a world of abundance by providing for all our basic economic needs, Kai-Fu Lee argues that humans would have to reorient the economy toward creating jobs which repair the social fabric. He proposes a “Social Investment Stipend” by which the government would redistribute wealth in an AI-powered economy to encourage social healthy activities like paying children to care for their elderly parents or women to be mothers again which are “jobs” which are not recognized as such under the paradigm of free-market capitalism.

In my view, the most likely response to the looming AI jobs crisis won’t be to answer the question: what happens when we teach robots how to fish and there is plenty of fish to go around for everyone? Isn’t the problem then just how do we distribute the fish?

The most likely scenario and the one Kai-Fu Lee fears is exactly what is playing out with the ongoing immigration crisis which is that inertia will maintain the status quo until the social and economic stress becomes so great in the declining working class and middle class – the losers of immigration and globalization and now the AI revolution – that events simply take over and run their course. If our elites think populism is bad now, they aren’t ready for what is coming in the 2020s.

About Hunter Wallace 12381 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

10 Comments

  1. Plan accordingly.

    As it stands, my children will fare better than most when the collapse happens.
    Rural land with ample resources. They’ll never have to buy a firearm and be on a government list. I have invested heavily over the years in certain goods that will be unobtainable or classified illegal in the coming years.

    We’re probably one election away from the Blue hives having complete control of the Electoral College, all Universities, Medical Care, Social Security, the Military, the Internet and Law Enforcement.

    The clock is ticking.

  2. “Imagine your car coming to pick you up and having a conversation with it as it drives you by itself across the State of North Carolina. ”

    Imagine having to be very careful what you say, because your Google car or Huawei phone will report you to the Silicon Valley olygarchs for “hate speech”.

    https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2019-07-09/apple-cofounder-steve-wozniaks-dire-warning-delete-your-facebook-account-now

    If you’re a “bad boy” in this future you will be fired from your make busy job, your UBI payments will be educed, you will no longer be allowed to access basic services like the Internet, and all AI cars will be instructed not to drive you anywhere outside your neighborhood.

  3. This is all well and good, but what will all the low and even average IQ people actually do with their life except eat and make babies (as nasty as obese people doing the deed is to think about) when narrow AI robots do all the work and the only humans who have any productive work to do are artists, philosophers, scholars and the engineers of various kinds who keep these machines running? That’s assuming that one day there won’t be learning AIs that can innovate new technologies on their own. I’m not predicting a terminator future, but I could easily see an overpopulated, deeply stratified world not unlike the terrible sjw movie Elysium.

    I just want to be the boss on my dad’s farm and have a bunch of robots helping me plant and pick cotton and peanuts and look after cows instead of have to rely on a rapidly diminishing pool of people who can actually help on a farm. The kids – like myself – have all moved away and the old timers who know how to do this kind of work are dying out.

  4. “Order as millions of working class jobs are destroyed as capital effectively abolishes labor in the global economy. It isn’t clear how anyone in the future will have the money to buy all these wonderful new products. What are all these unemployed people going to do?

    The truth is that no one has any clue. There isn’t any plan to deal with this.”

    Bill Gaede has been thinking about it for a long time, and thinks it will cause a global economic collapse.

    If there are too few people with money to buy the products companies produce, then companies won’t be able to make a profit. If a company can’t make a profit it dies. Bill was a communist in his youth, so I suspect this is an argument for it.

    His argument for automation causing economic collapse can be found here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rlQrYCacrKo

    Strange thing, when I show this to people they all ignore it. Yet to me it is common sense. If no one has a job, then no one has money to buy anything and nothing will be produced. Its as basic as 1 + 1 = 2.

  5. Even authoritarians like the Chinese will be suffering from the job-ending nature of AI. They can’t keep sending some of their surplus population to Africa for construction projects. As efficient as their surveillance state is, if enough people get pissed off it won’t matter if the cameras capture the malcontents’ images. The overseers of the giant Commie plantation will be too worried about their own skins to care.

    We Europeans are becoming more placid and controlled, too, of course. But without enough goodies to keep the peons distracted, even the American sheeple might get a bit unruly. There is an inherent danger in concentrating so much power and wealth in the hands of so few. But the kakistocracy just keeps centralizing their gold piles and media control.

    If the worrisome trends continue, there won’t be people waiting patiently for things to get better, like our forebears did during the Depression. Desperation for resources will lead to a rebellion that makes the French Revolution look like a church ice cream social. I find it hard to believe that people like Bezos and the Google poohbahs, who are supposedly so intelligent, can be so moronically short-sighted and thoughtlessly greedy for money and power. The political and economic systems are one catastrophe away from self-implosion.

  6. I don’t fear a future ruled by super-advanced AI computers, because they will quickly come to the conclusion that 90% of the human race is superfluous and must be liquidated so that the remaining 10% – the Aryan race – can survive. AI’s will basically become National Socialists / Social Darwinists. Uncle Shmuli must surely be aware of this.

  7. “but that it wasn’t until 2012 that the power and significance of this new technology known as deep learning came to be fully understood. The field of artificial intelligence had been stuck in an ice age and was limited to science fiction movies for decades until it began to make rapid progress after this pivotal breakthrough. The “neural networks” approach, as opposed to the “rules-based approach,” which has proven so successful “mimics the brain’s underlying architecture, constructing layers of artificial neurons that can receive and transmit information in a structure aking to our networks of biological neurons.” Deep learning was created after AI researchers discovered a way to efficiently train layers of artificial neurons in multiple layers in neural networks.”

    This is total bullsh__. The neural network approach that is used today has been used for decades with a lot of success. There was no breakthrough in 2012 – they simply started using many layers of neural networks and threw it a lot of data hoping that it would “learn”. Occasionally they would get decent results and call that a “breakthrough”. Your brain doesn’t work that way – in reality it’s segmented into small areas of neurons that become specialists for hearing, speech, motor skills, etc. And neural networks work much better when segmented as well.

    Each neural network is a “processing unit” which in many cases is simply a hyperbolic tangent or a set of e^x functions forming asymptotic curves / lines about the y-axis zero mark. Thus in reality it doesn’t come close to modeling a human neuron even though the results produced can be incredible if done the right way.

    In reality what matters is the data that used for training and testing – not the number of layers.

    So what’s really happening is that the elites decided that it was time to usher in “AI” and make the populace believe that something magical was taking place. This part of the agenda of creating “artificial gods” which is inline with the New World Order. The general public will easily believe that if “the AI” says XYZ is the answer then it must be true because it’s the magical artificial intelligence “god”.

    • @Jim

      The AI projects keep hitting walls, from what I’ve read. Are improved algorithms actually what we’re seeing, Jim?

      What you said about how the brain works is interesting. Our understanding of processes like speech keeps changing. It was first thought that we had a speech center in the brain. Then, it was communication on speech functions between two areas. Now, we supposedly “know” that there are over a hundred speech-related connections within the brain. Are programmers similarly discovering that the complexity needed to develop AI keeps growing beyond their comprehension?

      • I don’t see that they’ve improved the algorithms – they’ve tweaked the math and the way it’s implemented but the fundamentals have not been advanced – so it’s the same that has been used for decades.

        “Are programmers similarly discovering that the complexity needed to develop AI keeps growing beyond their comprehension?”

        I don’t know – and the answer is probably not. The millennials love the frameworks (Google’s TensorFlow, etc.) and the idea that they can just throw a bunch of data at a Neural Network system with lots of layers (calling it “deep learning”) and think that they are accomplishing something – which they are not. I have not seen any serious breakthroughs – just lots of hype.

        Keep in mind that the robotic feats that we see – such as the Boston Dynamics robot that does a backwards flip, are due to the advance in miniaturization of microprocessors and sensors – and the decreasing cost of these items – they are not due to AI. The robot mentioned can easily be made to perform similar feats just with age-old mathematical expressions / algorithms – what was needed was fast responding sensors with accurate information and microprocessors as well.

        So again – it’s (the AI movement) all hype – just like Climate Change. And there’s an agenda behind it – one that is nefarious. I suspect it’s to create the illusion that there are “AI gods” that know better than us regarding solutions to real world problems. Thus people will be more easily led because of the utterances of these “AI gods”.

Comments are closed.