Sunday, 2024 July 21

Baidu CEO Robin Li urges faster AI development at VivaTech Paris

On May 22, Baidu co-founder and CEO Robin Li attended the 2024 VivaTech, one of Europe’s leading technology events held in Paris, where he shared his vision for the future of artificial intelligence. In a 30-minute discussion with Maurice Levy, chairman of the supervisory board of Publicis Groupe, Li emphasized the need for an increased pace in AI development, expressing concerns that current advancements are too slow.

“Everyone is shocked at how fast the technology has evolved over the past couple of years, but to me it’s still not fast enough. It’s too slow,” Li said, highlighting the industry’s need to accelerate its efforts to meet future demands.

Notably, Li’s view is a contrarian one. Several established figures in the industry have publicly expressed the opposite view: that AI technology is advancing rapidly, and perhaps too rapidly:

  • In October 2023, Eric Schmidt, former chairman and CEO of Google, said in a conversation with Harvard University’s Graham Allison that AI developments are “going to happen so fast” and “the negatives are quite profound,” alluding to legal, ethical, and cultural considerations that remain unresolved.
  • Earlier in 2023, Elon Musk, the figurehead of Tesla, SpaceX, and X, was among a group of AI experts and industry executives who signed an open letter calling for a pause on AI advancements.

The global AI market is evidently expanding quickly, projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36.6% from 2024–2030, according to Grand View Research.

Delving deeper into the subject, Li emphasized that an application-driven approach could propel innovation in foundational models and expedite the transition from the internet age to the AI age. He added that, in China, the focus is shifting toward creating AI superapps, citing Baidu’s Ernie Bot, its proprietary AI chatbot released in March 2023, as an example, which has now garnered 200 million users.

In addition, Li speculated about the emergence of new formats for AI applications that could achieve sizable daily active user (DAU) bases. Drawing comparisons to mobile apps like Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, Li said that there aren’t any AI-native apps yet with a user base of the same scale as them, which are in the order of a few hundred million to a billion or more users.

Discussing the economic opportunities that AI may present, Li said that generative AI or artificial generative intelligence (AGI) could significantly enhance productivity. He illustrated this by describing a scenario where AI could replicate the productivity of billions of people, thereby transforming economies. “If AI can be as good as humans, it can solve the population problem. France has like probably 80 million people, right? And your GDP is everyone’s productivity times your total population. But when you have generative AI or AGI, you can have the productivity of eight billion people. That’s huge,” Li said.

study by PwC appears to support Li’s perspective, highlighting contributions of up to USD 15.7 trillion by AI to the global economy by 2030. For context, that figure is more than the current output of China and India combined.

Li’s statements underscore his call for accelerated AI development. His emphasis on the economic potential of AI, alongside his vision for AI-native applications, contrasts sharply with industry figures who warn of AI’s rapid advancements. As the global AI market continues to expand, with significant economic contributions projected, the debate over the pace of AI innovation versus ethical considerations remains critical.

36Kr Global Writers
36Kr Global Writers
The tech ecosystem is roaring. Unicorns valued at billions of dollars have emerged worldwide, while venture capital and strategic investors are constantly on the lookout for the next big thing. 36Kr Global is committed to establishing ties between global stakeholders and providing the most vital information about China’s tech scene and capital markets.
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