June 20, 2024

China’s New AI ‘Supermind’ Deepens Challenge to U.S.

China’s New AI ‘Supermind’ Deepens Challenge to U.S.

China’s New AI ‘Supermind’ Deepens Challenge to U.S.

By Didi Kirsten Tatlow
29 February 2024

China is building a vast, AI-based intelligence platform dubbed “Supermind” to track millions of scientists and researchers around the world so it can hoover up breakthrough technologies for industry and the military, according to a person with close knowledge of the project and public sources reviewed by Newsweek.

The state-funded platform, which says it uses sophisticated artificial intelligence systems to help find talent for China, is under construction in a new “information and intelligence” center that began work last year in the southern technology hub of Shenzhen. The city is home to global tech brands such as Huawei, ZTE and Tencent— some of which have been sanctioned by the U.S. government on national security and human rights grounds.

The effort, revealed by Newsweek, has been called “Supermind” by the state-controlled Shenzhen Special Zone Daily and the AMiner university fund linked to Tsinghua University that offers grants for it. With $280 million invested mostly by the Shenzhen government, according to the person with close knowledge of the project, it represents a step in China’s efforts to win a global technology competition with the United States. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said China must become “a great power in science and technology” and achieve overall global pre-eminence by 2049.

“They are building a database of ‘Who’s Who’ in different areas,” said the person with knowledge of the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity. “For example you can ask it, ‘I need five particular experts in this area who are top talents.’ Then you approach them all,” the person said.

Winning the race for world-changing technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors could define the future international balance of power, geopolitical analysts and technology experts say.

The new platform, which is the centerpiece of the International Science and Technology Information Center (ITIC) in Shenzhen, says it will offer users 300 million global science and technology research papers and 120 million patents, as well as locate 130 million global scholars or “human talents” to scrutinise their work down to the finest detail in order to use it—either by hiring them or other means. The system will be constantly updated. It will include the next-door cities of Hong Kong and Macau in its networks, but only people with a Shenzhen IP address can use it.

The platform uses AI to mine about a dozen of the world’s leading science and technology databases including ones belonging to Springer, Wiley, Clarivate and Elsevier, the center’s website says. Hundreds of millions of data points build a “three-dimensional scientific and technological information and intelligence service system to support the national strategy of strengthening the country in science and technology,” creating a “global map of scientific and technological talents in all fields” that serves the Chinese government, industry and businesses, research institutes and universities.

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