One of the great pleasures of visiting Beijing in winter is going out for a spicy lamb hot pot to fight off the freezing cold. The hot and noisy atmosphere in the restaurants helps to raise the spirits further. This is the China that I love to experience, with everybody sat round the tables merrily chatting, eating, and drinking after a hard day’s grind at the office. Nothing can beat it!
AI has been the most popular subject of conversation among the people I’ve been talking to here. Although they recognize the negative impact that the aggressive implementation of the technology will have on white-collar and retail jobs, most see AI as an inevitable trend that should be embraced as soon as possible in order to drive economic development and boost China’s global competitiveness. In other words, now that the AI train has left the station, the best approach is to hang on for the ride than press the emergency stop button!
Indeed, with its huge smart phone user base, aggressive industry players and startups, and a raft of government policy initiatives supporting the development of AI, China is extremely well placed to lead the world in the implementation and proliferation of the technology and its related applications and services. Just as important, its tech-savvy population provides the perfect test bed for trying out new innovations and fine-tuning them to meet specific market requirements based on the analysis of all the collected data. As a result, it’s going to be very challenging for other countries to generate similar momentum behind AI innovation.
Retail (and the logistics processes that support it) will no doubt be the most visible segment for the development of AI application services as companies like Alibaba and jd.com aggressively roll out cashierless stores throughout China this year. I wouldn’t be surprised either if the restaurant sector embraces the technology almost as quickly to optimize demand forecasting processes, table reservation management systems, and recipes for dishes. Perhaps one day AI will even be able to top the hot pot dining experience I had last night – though given how much I enjoyed it I have no idea how that would be possible.