Attracting skilled workers for AI development
Visitors view a robot at Inner Mongolia Science and Technology Museum in Hohhot, capital of North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [Photo/hhhtnews]
Artificial intelligence, commonly known as AI, has been a hot topic during the fourth World Internet Conference, which closed on Dec 5. Many people think that this is only the beginning, whereas others feel that the AI bubble will soon pop.
Liu Yong, who owns a noodle restaurant in Hohhot, claimed that he has been a beneficiary of AI. He introduced a robot cook to make noodles five years ago, helping him save more than 200,000 yuan ($30,022) in labor costs.
"The robot can make the perfect noodles every time," said Liu.
AI robots are already being used in places like restaurants, factories, banks, prisons and courts in Inner Mongolia and have increased efficiency and improved people's lives.
Lu Min, a doctoral candidate at Inner Mongolia University (IMU), developed a correction system for the Mongolian language by using AI technology, improving efficiency greatly. At present, the system is being widely used by local print media, and primary and middle schools.
Hou Hongxu, a professor and doctoral supervisor at IMU said that such a system is of practical significance.
When it comes to industrial robots, Tang Shufeng, a technical expert at a Hohhot-based auto company was not optimistic.
"Most of the industrial robots are imported from foreign countries and don't sell well in Inner Mongolia. But I think the robots used for education have become compulsory in primary and middle schools," said Tang.
Tang, who has been engaged in AI research for more than 10 years, expressed his worries over the lack of technology workers.
"Inner Mongolia has a large pool of workers skilled in AI technologies, but suffers from a brain drain due to the inadequate development of AI in the region," he said.
"Even local skilled workers prefer high-tech companies in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region, Yangtze River Delta, and Pearl River Delta," said Hou Hongxu.
China lacks more than one million skilled technology workers, according to tech giant Tencent's new "2017 Global AI Talent White Paper" released on Dec 1.
Given this situation, Hou pointed out that the key challenge for AI development in the region is the shortage of workers, stressing that he hoped the local government will enact more preferential policies to retain and attract workers.
Rock 1, a security robot developed by experts from Rochester Institute of Technology, Beihang University, and Chinese Academy of Sciences, unveils in Hohhot, capital of North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, July 28, 2017. [Photo/sina.com]
Hohhot has been looking to expand the scale of the AI industry in the city, according to guidelines issued in September this year. The Guidelines on Application of the City's Science and Technology Projects were published by the Science and Technology Bureau, and Finance Bureau of Hohhot, encouraging the application of projects for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), AI, and intelligent processing.
"Promoting the development of AI is the general trend," said Chi Bo, a director from the Science and Technology Department of Inner Mongolia.
Chi claimed that an increasing number of high and new technology companies have been established in Inner Mongolia. Statistics reveal that there are 520 high-tech companies in the region, providing a sound environment for AI development.
Yu Guangjun, director of the Institute of Economics at the Inner Mongolia Academy of Social Sciences, said that AI technology is still in the early stages of development.
Still, some are worried that humans will become obsolete and robots will put people out of work.
Technological change always raises fears of mass unemployment, Yu noted.
"Artificial intelligence is now taking over some repetitive jobs, but those that require lots of human communication won't be easily automated," stressed Yu, adding that automation could liberate people from drudgery.