LIVE FROM WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, DAVOS: Ren Zhengfei, Huawei founder and CEO (pictured), explained the US may further escalate its trade sanctions against the company, but insisted the impact on its business won’t be significant as it is now more prepared than ever.
In a keynote session, Ren said being placed on a US trade blacklist in 2019 hasn’t hurt the company much: “Since we didn’t have a sense of security regarding the US ten years ago, we spent hundreds of billions of dollars to come up with a backup plan, which is why we withstood the first round of attacks. We are now more confident we can survive further attacks.”
He said the US shouldn’t be too concerned about Huawei or China’s position in the world.
In China, education is still designed for the industrial age, with a focus on training engineers, he noted.
“AI can’t grow rapidly in China, as it requires a lot of mathematicians, supercomputers, super connectivity and super storage. In those areas, China is still starting in terms of the size technology. The US is overly concerned. It has gotten used to being the world’s number one, and it can’t necessarily be the best at everything it does.”
Ren suggested the world needs to conduct serious study into how AI can be used to benefit society, and agreed rules must be developed on what can and cannot be studied.
If both the US and Chinese governments want to see rapid AI growth, he said they should be investing more in basic education and research.
Regarding concerns about the company’s huge investment in AI, Ren said its research covers so-called “weak” AI with clear boundaries set where the technology can be applied. Its focus is on sectors including autonomous driving, data mining and biotech.
“The advancement of AI can create enormous wealth. People say many will lose their jobs as more wealth is created. Addressing the widening income gap is a social issue not a technology issue.”
Yuval Noah Harari, professor in the Department of History at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, noted frequent comparisons of AI to the atom bomb is valid, explaining the enormous danger of the bomb united humanity around a common threat even in the midst of the Cold War, which helped develop rules to prevent the worst.
The problem with AI compared to atomic weapons, he said, is the danger of AI is not so obvious. “Many people think you can win an AI arms race, and this is very dangerous, because there’s a temptation to try to win the race and dominate the world.”
Despite the prolonged conflict with the US, Ren doesn’t believe the world will split into two technology systems, because “science is about truth”.
“A scientist who make discoveries wants to make it known to the world. At a deep underlying layer, the world is united and is all linked.”Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back