In 2016, a program developed by Google’s DeepMind to play the ancient game of Go versus a human prodigy ranked second in the world and wins… convincingly. A few years later the prodigy retires lamenting “Even if I become the number one, there is an entity [AI] that cannot be defeated”. The eponymous documentary film, AlphaGo (Greg Kohs, 2017) chronicles the events surrounding these series of matches specifically following the team behind the AI as they endeavour to best champion player Lee Sedol and prove the power of their program.
AlphaGo itself is an AI system designed to mimic aspects of human cognition, specifically intuition a feat that had not yet been accomplished convincingly. Since the achievements of AlphaGo and its successor AlphaZero the field of AI research and development has seen greater interest and acceleration. For some this technology appears a threat for others an opportunity and as nations in the region continue to redefine themselves within the global digital space many have begun to position themselves in an attempt to take full advantage of this exploding sector.
Many lauded the success of AlphaGo as having a profound effect on the perception of AI technologies in Asia, oft described as a “Sputnik moment” in China. Helping to not only, persuade the government to increase funding to AI but prioritize its development (Mozur, 2017). Since 2016, China has developed national AI strategies, surpassing the US in annual research & development spending. Currently, China allocates just above 2% of its GDP (approx. $275 Billion) to the sector. This percentage is similar to other Asian nations such as Japan, Korea and Singapore which spend above this mark as well.(Khanna & Khanna, 2020)
Singapore and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and the Philippines have found that successful development in AI could add $1 trillion to the region’s GDP by 2030.With much of this industry being driven by major investments from Chinese firms and the ever-growing start-up culture in countries like China and India. (EG, 2021) It is evident that the fast-growing economies and populations of such Asian nations combined with the rapid adoption of digital technologies in the banking, retail, and healthcare sectors due to the pandemic has provided an effective platform for the adoption & integration of AI’s. Regardless of the ethical fears surrounding this technology, Asia is investing heavily in the sector. With the combined cooperation from state and technology companies (Athique, 2019) and both the developing infrastructure and mass of people to truly leverage such an opportunity, Asia seems poised to emerge world leaders.
Athique, Adrian., 2019. Digital Transactions in Asia. Digital Transactions in Asia: Social , Economic and Informational Processes. (pp. 1-22) edited by Adrian Athique and Emma Baulch. New York, NY United States: Routledge
EG, M., 2021. Asia: Becoming a Powerhouse of Artificial Intelligence. [online] Analyticsinsight.net. Available at: <https://www.analyticsinsight.net/asia-becoming-a-powerhouse-of-artificial-intelligence/> [Accessed 13 August 2021].
Khanna, A. and Khanna, P., 2020. Forbes Insights: Where Asia Is Taking The World With AI. [online] Forbes. Available at: <https://www.forbes.com/sites/insights-ibmai/2020/05/21/where-asia-is-taking-the-world-with-ai/?sh=1b33cbfc7947> [Accessed 13 August 2021].
Mozur, P., 2017. Beijing Wants A.I. to Be Made in China by 2030 (Published 2017). [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/20/business/china-artificial-intelligence.html> [Accessed 13 August 2021].