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

Scott Kalwei
4 min readNov 27, 2018

I’m a nerd that doesn’t possess the technological understanding necessary for much high level AI talk. It is beyond me. But I understand the basics. You run algorithms on massive amounts of data to retrieve and use the useful insights gained.

This doesn’t sound that amazing or world changing when it’s simplified in such terms. But the implications of this new world that we live in can’t be understated and Kai Fu-Lee explains it in such a perfect way where even dummies like me can understand.

I became fascinated with AI whenever I heard Elon Musk give a speech about the negative impacts that AI could have on humanity. I never put that much thought into it before that tbh. But after looking into it and finding out that a leader in AI had just came out with a book describing our standing on the world’s AI stage, I had to pick it up!

It’s a fascinating, yet terrifying, look at the differences between our two entrepreneurial cultures. A vast majority of the book was about entrepreneurial endeavors more so than AI itself which I really appreciated. It was a take on the subject which, before reading the book wouldn’t have made sense to me. But after completing the book makes complete sense.

The main point he gets across is just how important data is and how China is poised to kick our a** in it’s collection. Here in the states we tend to follow the rules, value work/life balance, and want somewhat protected privacy. In China though, they don’t necessarily have those same values. Their entrepreneurs will steal, cheat, work all the time, and are willing to give away privacy in exchange for simplifying their lives.

Besides it being an amazingly written and insightful book, it’s very thought provoking in today’s day and age. I’ve always been interested in how social media and technology affects the way we think and see the world. Kai Fu Lee honestly makes me extremely nervous about our future when showing just how much AI can influence vast populations by leveraging those technological powers.

AI has taken over the world and narrated our online presence. We only see the things that best speak to our attention. Social media now curates the very world in which we live. Search engines optimize the world’s information into easily clickable links to which they think we’ll click. Technology tracks our eye movements to tell researches where we look and what we like. Heartbeats raise when interest is peaked and the data is organized for smarter algorithms. Everything is data and the data is getting better. So what’s the impact?

I hate to bring politics into everything, but in today’s climate I think it’s impossible. The Trump campaign was specifically helped by “Cambridge Analytica” and its use of “pyschographics”. Which is what worries me more than anything in the world and you can’t talk about it to layman without sounding like a crazy person. So let me vent!

Growing up, “hacking” meant breaking into systems and using them in a way in which they weren’t intended. For the good hackers, that meant innovating by breaking, repairing, changing, and putting together electronics in new ways to get unique outputs. For bad hackers, that meant breaking into systems to steal or break things for malicious purposes.

The new form of hacking, which is becoming prevalent now that AI is learning and manipulating our world more and more, is what they refer to as “mind hacking”. Marketing has been around for a very long time for one reason, it works! Companies don’t often pour money into things that don’t work.

Well, AI super-powered marketing being put in the hands of every single person and continually blurring the lines between marketing, entertainment, and utility gives this field steroids on top of steroids. You don’t have marketing teams doing A/B tests anymore. You now have an algorithm studying the patterns of billions of people instantly and learning more about you than they know about themselves.

This allows these AI superpowered companies to build extreme amounts of wealth while becoming more powerful than any organization in the world. They can influence billions of people easier than anyone at anytime, and they’ll only continue to get better. This is scary and fascinating at the same time. It’s like the convergence of all things I find interesting; business, tech, and politics.

So if you’re looking for a good book to really freak you out about the changing technology landscape, then I’d really recommend this book. The dude obviously knows what he’s talking about and he brings a fresh perspective from the other side of the world. It’s a stark reminder that we can’t rest on our laurels here. We’ve got to get our affairs in order and get back to work, otherwise the other, less democratic side of the world, will surely dominate the future.

Originally published at ScottKalwei.