The Way You Walk

Move over facial recognition, there’s a new camera-based identification technology on the scene. Welcome gait recognition. 🚶‍♂️

Chinese company Watrix can now identify and track people based on the way they walk. So just walk like Monty Python all the time? Nope, won’t do the trick. 🙅‍♂️

According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: “You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

It appears that China is going to lead the way in all forms of tracking and recognition so it can all be bundled up in a citizen control monitoring system. Big Brother is watching indeed. 👁️

Src: Outer Places

Wu-Tang Was Right

Cash does rules everything around us. 💰

There seems to be a trend amongst Chinese tech companies to deflect when asked about what societal implications their tech could have by shrugging and talking dollar signs. 💲💲💲

Exhibit A:

“We’re not really thinking very far ahead, you know, whether we’re having some conflicts with humans, those kinds of things,” [SenseTime co-founder Tang Xiao’ou] said. “We’re just trying to make money.”

Src: Bloomberg

Exhibit B: (Outerplaces)

According to Haung Yongzhen, the CEO of Watrix: “You don’t need people’s cooperation for us to be able to recognize their identity. Gait analysis can’t be fooled by simply limping, walking with splayed feet or hunching over, because we’re analyzing all the features of an entire body.”

Src: Outer Places

Exhibit C:

“We don’t support the government,” [Su Qingfeng, the head of ZTE’s Venezuela unit,] said. “We are just developing our market.”

Src: Reuters

I find it interesting that state supported companies in a Communist country keep using Capitalism as a shield. 🛡️


SenseTime is Watching 👀

Computer vision is the engine behind China’s Panopticon, and SenseTime is the engine behind many of these computer vision capabilities. And a lot of what they have developed has a dystopian feel to it with hidden cameras scanning faces and more and triggering the appropriate actions via AI. 📹

“That’s really how they see future interactions,” says Jean-François Gagné, who runs Canadian startup Element AI Inc. “You don’t need to log in to your computer, you don’t need to get a boarding pass, you don’t need to do anything anywhere. You’re just recognized.”

Not gonna lie, that does sound pretty cool. No more remembering passwords or tickets, no panicked pocket checking. But that glosses over the tyrannical implications of the tech as well, like freezing a dissident out of everything based on their face. 👤

Src: Bloomberg

They’re Making a List, And Checking it Lots 📇

Oh yay, China is exporting its panopticon. 🤐

First up? Venezuela. The land of oil, soaring inflation, an imploding economy, and a leader that’s super into overt political intimidation. 🔨

It can’t be that bad, right? 🤷

“What we saw in China changed everything,” said the member of the Venezuelan delegation, technical advisor Anthony Daquin. His initial amazement, he said, gradually turned to fear that such a system could lead to abuses of privacy by Venezuela’s government. “They were looking to have citizen control.”

Uh, maybe it can. 😟

This holiday season’s must have gift? A build-your-own-authoritarian-regmie kit. 🎁

Src: Reuters

China vs. the US: Round ? 🤷‍♀️

In the continuing narrative that is the space race between the US and China in the realm of AI, we get an entry on what the US can learn from Chine. 🇺🇸🇨🇳

It boils down to the two countries excelling at the usual, the US creates visionary ideas and China puts them into production. China has a massive treasure trove of data, true survival of the fittest business environment, and highly involved (controlling) government. 🔬

China is also further along the tech adoption curve, just look at WhatsApp. It’s hard for tourists in some areas because locals rely so heavily on digital payment platforms. China’s approach has its drawbacks, but it’s hard to say the country isn’t more all-in on AI than any other. 💰

Ultimately, if the US is actually competing with China it needs to take an AI-first approach with buy in from all levels. And it needs to productionize ideas, not just produce them. ⚙️

Src: New York Times

China’s Social Submission, er…Scoring System

There is a lot of focus on the China vs. USA space race happening in AI right now (at least in my world there is, I’m very interested in the topic). Most of it revolves around spending, governmental support, talent, etc. But maybe the most important aspect is what the implications of either country winning would be, if there truly can be only one winner in this field. 🏎️

China’s social scoring system, still in its infancy, is terrifying. Of course that is an opinion from a different way of live and cultural experience. But still, it has dystopian sci-fi future written all over it. 😈

A network of 220 million cameras outfitted with facial rec, body scanning, and geo tracking. And this insane info net will be paired with every citizen’s digital footprint. Everything is compiled to create a social credit score of sorts that is updated in real time and determines how easily you can interact with society and live your life. Piss the government off and become an outcast with no options. Dear China, Phillip K Dick called, he’d like his dystopia back. 📚

It’s no guarantee that this form of digital dictatorship will be exported on a mass scale (you know it’ll be exported at some scale) if China were to win the race, but it’s a chilling possibility. A lot of ink is spilled talking about the potential for a robot uprising and AI taking over, but the misuse of AI by human actors is far more relevant and just as fraught. We’ve been our own biggest enemy for centuries, why would that suddenly change now? 🤔

Src: ABC News Australia

Lazy Faire 🇺🇸🇨🇳

At the US government’s current rate of uninvolvement in the AI sector, China will overtake it in its quest for AI overlord status by the end of the year. At least when it comes to spending, the rest might not be far behind though. 💰

One of the recommendations from a subcommittee is to expedite the approval of the OPEN Government Data Set. You know, giving citizens the right to data they actually own as taxpayers. 🙄

My hunch is that the way Trump deals with something he doesn’t understand (and might admit to himself he doesn’t understand) is to ignore it, thus the administration’s lack of a plan. 😖

Src: The Next Web

Alibaba Wants Their Own Chip

There are two undeniable trends these days: major tech players want their own silicon and the new class of uber-rich want to own classy publications. 🗞️

I’m more interested in the first trend (though the second could have interesting implications in this era of doom for publishers). Alibaba is the newest tech giant to announce they are making their own AI chips. 🏭

The chip will reportedly power the company’s cloud technology and IoT devices, and could be used for things like autonomous cars, smart cities and logistics.

This time it’s bigger than just wanting full control and integration. This move is also to reduce Alibaba’s reliance on the West and the impact of the shiny new trade war between China and the US. It also plays nicely into China’s national plan to be the AI superpower of the world. 💪 🇨🇳

Src: CNet

The Tangled Web We Weave 🌐

AI and nationalism are strange bedfellows. On the one hand, most research at this point has been collaborative and open. Indeed, a lot of advances are open source and practically everything gets a paper written explaining the process. On the other hand, the implications for military use and national advancement are very real. 🛏

The US and China are the two main players in this slowly unfolding drama. The big tech companies of each are building research centers in the other and are likely attracting the bulk of the world’s talent. But they are beginning to diverge in a major way, China’s AI industry is heavily backed by the government and follows a policy of dual-use: commercial and military. The US government is basically staying out of it (probably because most of the decision makers don’t understand it) and employees are calling for their companies to stay out of military contracts and applications. 🇨🇳🇺🇸

No one benefits if an isolationist approach is taken, but nothing good will happen if the realities of what could result from partnerships and investments are ignored. China seems to want all joint ventures to skew towards benefitting them. Could we be headed towards a Cold War? ⛄️

Could AI spark a new wave of spying? Industrial espionage, asset development and exploitation, academic pillaging, funding stipulations, code breaking? 🕵️‍♀️🕵️‍♂️

The post on ASPI does a great job breaking down the situation and outlining what’s going on in China. Plus they recommend some approaches to potential solutions. Ultimately it feels like this is going to become a traditional battle between two countries that manifests in entirely new ways due to the technology involved. 🗺

Src: ASPI