The great challenge of artificial intelligence

UNTV News   •   December 20, 2019   •   325

Visitors at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, 30 August 2019. EPA-EFE FILE/WU HONG

SHANGHAI, CHINA/ SAN FRANCISCO, USA – Artificial intelligence, increasingly present in daily life and driven by China and the United States, will be one of humanity’s greatest challenges, shaping the future of human beings.

British professional services network PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that by 2030 technologies linked to AI – based on automated machine learning by analyzing data – will increase global GDP by 14 percent, about $15.7 trillion, equivalent to the combined GDP of China and India.

Automation will make 75 million jobs disappear and generate another 133 million by 2022, according to the World Economic Forum.

The paradox of making man flourish in a fully mechanized world is the challenge of governments and companies, which have tried to obtain the most precious raw material: citizens’ personal data.

This transformation has one of its main pillars in education.

In the US, disciplines with binary responses like mathematics have been the first to reap the benefits of AI.

The main advantage is the adaptation of the curriculum to each student.

In a class with many children, offering each student tools tailored to their needs has always been a challenge for teachers. AI solutions have accurate data on each student’s level and characteristics, even their mood.

Software programs developed by private companies such as Thinkster, Third Space and Splash Math have already been responsible for teaching hundreds of thousands of children.

One of the pioneering institutions in the introduction of these technologies has been the network of New York Green Ivy private schools.

Founder Jennifer Jones told EFE: “Today, AI does a much better job of supporting individualized student progress than most teachers can.”

According to the report “Artificial Intelligence Market in the US Education Sector,” prepared by market research company Technavio, between 2018 and 2022, turnover in this sector is growing and will continue to increase at an annual rate of 48 percent.

“The only reason there are teachers in basic math classes right now is because of society’s fear of replacing math teachers with machines,” Jones said.

“Society’s feeling about a child learning from a machine versus a person,” she added.

The AI boost in China has come from the government, which launched a plan two years ago with the aim that the technology will be ubiquitous in society by 2030.

Within the project, there is a special section for education that includes the introduction in the curriculum of AI subjects, with $1 billion invested in this area last year, according to official data.

Feng Xiang, a professor at East China Normal University, told EFE the arrival of the era of AI is inevitable and that the most important thing is to train and prepare people on issues such as problem-solving.

But is China ready for this new education? With 1.4 billion inhabitants, competitive environments affect children early on and education has become an obsession.

The National College Entrance Examination, commonly known as the “gaokao,” is the greatest challenge to define a person’s future.

The test grants access to university and its numerical score defines everything.

To do well in it and study at a good university, the most important skill is still memorization.


AI has entered schools to help train citizens of the future but the debate outside the classroom has focused on its potential as a tool to control and shape society, either by private companies and local entities or central government, as in the case of China.

Skynet, the Chinese government’s video surveillance system championed by President Xi Jinping and described by international critics as “Chinese Big Brother,” aims to put 600 million cameras in the streets, many of them equipped with facial recognition, an AI-based technology that is expanding at great speed and normalizing among the population.

Citizen unrest has emerged on social media, where most Chinese give free rein (if possible) to their opinions.

An example is that of Guo Bing, a university professor who denounced a park for imposing facial recognition to gain access.

His case, the first related to the use of facial recognition in China, was accepted by a court, although experts do not believe it will prosper.

Human Rights Watch researcher Maya Wang said the clearest example of the use of technology for social control in China is Xinjiang.

In this region of northwestern China with around 22 million inhabitants, 13 million of them are scrutinized daily: the Uyghur minority ethnic group with around one million of their number held in “re-education centers,” according to NGOs.

Wang told EFE: “When western countries call china Big Brother, are they exaggerating? No.”

“The Chinese government use of mass surveillance is so intrusive that it is possibly unprecedented anywhere in human history,” she added. “In Xinjiang, we have documented it, but in the rest of the country, we don’t know how much data the government collects.”

Unlike China, the US government has managed to avoid controversy around the use of AI as a social control tool.

Criticism has focused on local police forces and the use of facial recognition for tasks such as identifying criminals, looking for missing minors and to prevent fraud.

Critics have argued this technology can perpetuate police biases against ethnic minorities, as it has been proven more errors occur among people with darker skin.

A study conducted by the American Civil Liberties Union found facial recognition had incorrectly identified 28 US members of congress, mostly from ethnic minorities, as criminals when compared to police photographs.

In May 2019, San Francisco in California became the country’s first major city to pass a law banning local agencies, including the police, from using facial recognition techniques. EFE-EPA

Cebu Pacific: Flights en route to China, HK, Macau can rebook, refund tickets

Aileen Cerrudo   •   January 27, 2020

Cebu Pacific announced passengers with flights between China, Hong Kong and Macau booked on or before January 24, 2020 and travelling until February 29 may rebook their flights for free or refund their tickets in full.

In their Facebook post, Cebu Pacific said passengers can avail the following options:

● Rebook flights (new flight date within 30 days of original travel date);
● Refund tickets in full;
● Store the value of the ticket in a Travel Fund for future use

Man fined for riding go-kart on streets of Shanghai

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2019

Security camera footage showing man riding go-kart on streets at Shanghai Municipality, east China. A man was fined 1,000 yuan (about 145 U.S. dollars) for riding a go-kart on the streets of Shanghai. | Courtesy: Reuters

A man was fined 1,000 yuan (about 145 U.S. dollars) for riding a go-kart on the streets of Shanghai, China.

The man, who was only identified by his surname Ye, was seen riding the go-kart on June 23 in Baoshan District.

The video posted online went viral and caught the attention of police as go-karts are classified as banned vehicles and are not allowed on public roads.

It turned out that the go-kart is actually a toy belonging to the offender’s 6-year-old grandson. While playing with his grandson on that day, he received an emergency call from his firm. Being in a hurry, Ye came up with the idea to borrow the go-kart from his grandson.

After getting caught by the police, Ye realized that his actions were reckless. He was fined 1,000 yuan and the go-kart was confiscated.

Police have emphasized that personal transporters like segways, e-scooters, and mobility devices for elderly people are prohibited on the streets in Shanghai. They are only allowed on pathways in closed compounds or indoors.

“These vehicles pose great hidden safety hazards while driving on the streets. If they are involved in an accident, settlement of claims cannot be guaranteed, so we ban these vehicles from driving on the streets,” said Mao Chenchen, a traffic police officer with the Baoshan branch of the Shanghai Public Security. (REUTERS)

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Eleven pulled alive from rubble in China building collapse

Robie de Guzman   •   May 16, 2019

A team of rescuers are trying to find survivors under rubble after a building collapsed in Shanghai, China on May 16. | Photo grabbed from Reuters footage

Rescue services pulled out 11 people alive from a collapsed building in China’s financial hub of Shanghai on Thursday (May 16), and about same number are believed to be still trapped in the rubble.

The building in Shanghai’s Changning district was being renovated when it collapsed late in the morning, trapping some 20 people inside, fire services said in a statement.

Witnesses heard a big bang which lasted for five to six second and a cloud of dust that enveloped the building.

“The accident happened at 11 am and a big bang lasted five to six seconds. I immediately ran to the balcony and saw the entire factory was surrounded by dust. After the dust dispersed, I found the factory collapsed. As it was my first time to witness this, I was quiet shocked,” said Zhang Lei, who was working in an office next to the collapsed building

More than 150 rescuers are on the scene but they have not said how the building collapsed. (REUTERS)


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