Bridging the AI gap

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Bridging the AI gap

In a meeting of government and corporate representatives to discuss ways to whip up Korea’s lagging capabilities in artificial intelligence (AI), President Park Geun-hye called for “proactive” ways to use the country’s ICT strengths and cultural riches to stay ahead in the lead-up to the so-called fourth industrial revolution.

The country got a rude wake-up call when it witnessed the stunning evolution and performance of Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm AlphaGo during a historic match in Seoul against Korean Go master Lee Se-dol.

The race in the AI field actually began long ago. The United States embarked on a 10-year Brain Initiative from 2013 with a $3 billion budget. Germany is engrossed in the so-called Industry 4.0 project to transform its industrial base to a fully automated infrastructure.

Japan announced an agenda to become a powerhouse in robotics in January 2015. Korea lags behind the United States by 2.4 years in AI technology. Since AI technology is expected to bring about revolutionary changes in the industrial field and human lifestyles, the government must become more aggressive to work with the corporate and academic sector to catch up.

Everything must begin with our approach to research and development and innovation. The key is stronger R&D productivity. Korea’s R&D spending, which amounts to 4.3 percent of gross domestic product, is the world’s sixth largest and the first in terms of its GDP ratio.
And yet it is just a third of what the U.S. spends. A think tank under the auspices of the president and the government will be established in order to rationalize R&D infrastructure and direction.

The body will be funded by technology companies and jointly work on projects to develop automated vehicles, robotics, drones, machinery and health care systems. Research will focus on AI software in language, visualization, space and sensitivity. But scientific research and lab work must be guaranteed full freedom.

The government must be generous and patient in funding and contribute with strategic and farsighted input. But it must keep interference to a minimum. Advances in science and technology cannot take place without respect for diversity and freedom in the research environment.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 18, Page 34

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