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中国科技巨擘竞逐人工智能

As the quest to master artificial intelligence intensifies, China’s tech trio of Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent have a distinct advantage over their Silicon Valley rivals — data. 在各方对人工智能(AI)的探索日益白热化之际,中国科技三巨头百度(Baidu)、阿里巴巴(Alibaba)和腾讯(Tencent)比硅谷竞争对手拥有一项明显优势——数据。 As Robin Li, chairman and chief executive of Baidu, says: “Baidu knows you better than you know yourself.” 正如百度董事长兼首席执行官李彦宏(Robin Li)所说的那样:“百度(比你自己)更懂你。” Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, have embraced AI with alacrity: setting up specialist labs at home and overseas and hiring top engineers. Much like their US peers such as Google, they are using machine learning to push into newer fields of autonomous driving, medical diagnosis, facial recognition for payments and AI-enabled hardware that can be operated by voice. 百度、阿里巴巴和腾讯均已欣然接受AI:在国内和海外建立专家实验室,聘请顶级工程师。和谷歌(Google)等美国同行一样,他们利用机器学习进入了一些较新的领域,包括自主驾驶、医疗诊断、用于支付验证的面部识别,以及可用语音操作的AI功能硬件。 “We regarded AI as one of our top priorities last year and treat it as a strategic focus,” says Mark Ren, Tencent’s chief operating officer last month. “去年我们把AI视为我们的优先项目之一,把它当作一个战略重点,”腾讯首席运营官任宇昕(Mark Ren)上月表示。 Alibaba takes a similar view, saying AI permeates “every aspect of our business?.?.?.?we don’t see it as a separate business unit.” 阿里巴巴持有类似观点,称AI渗透进了“我们业务的方方面面……我们不把它看作独立的业务部门。” The difference now, says Xiaofeng Wang, senior analyst at Forrester, the consultants, is the scale of the data companies have and the speed with which machines are able to process it. “You can easily do personalisation for a group of customers, but if its millions it’s very hard, and it’s about how fast you can provide that,” she says. 咨询机构Forrester高级分析师王小峰(音)表示,如今的差别在于企业所掌握的数据规模以及机器处理数据的速度。“你可以轻松地对一群顾客进行个性化分析,但如果要分析数百万顾客就会非常难,这里的关键在于你可能多快得出结果,”他表示。 Alibaba began highlighting its AI-powered improvements in this year’s earnings report. Jeff Zhang, chief technology officer, told analysts earlier this year that the biggest change was the scope of data — which now tops 1,000 PBs, equivalent to about 580bn books — it is able to process. 阿里巴巴在今年的盈利报表中开始介绍AI推动的改进。首席技术官张建锋(Jeff Zhang)今年早些时候向分析师们表示,最大的变化是该公司如今能够处理的数据规模(1000PB),相当于大约5800亿册书。 “We are generating and collecting all different kinds of data,” he says. “We want to leverage this to enable personalisation, to power search, security, customer service in all of these areas we are providing support through our data products.” “我们产生并收集所有不同类型的数据,”他称,“我们希望利用这些数据来实现个性化,通过我们的数据产品在我们提供支持的所有领域推动搜索、安全、客户服务。” Some of that was in evidence on Singles Day, when Alibaba used AI to generate 400m customised banner advertisements in the month leading up to the shopping day. It also used chatbots, to answer 3.5m simple queries a day over the presale period, such as “Where’s my package?” 11月11日的“光棍节”展现了AI的一部分威力,阿里巴巴在这个购物节之前的一个月利用AI制作了4亿个定制横幅广告。在预售期,该公司还利用聊天机器人每天回答350万个简单询问,比如“我的包裹在哪?” All of this was possible previously, through the use of microphones and cameras, but not on the massive scale and at the split-second speeds afforded by AI technologies. 这一切在过去也可以通过麦克风和摄像头实现,但是达不到如此庞大的规模以及AI技术带来的高速度。 Edouard de Mezerac, head of data and analytics for Asia-Pacific at Oliver Wyman, the consultancy, highlights another change under way on Taobao, Alibaba’s third-party ecommerce platform. It allows users to search by image using deep learning, a technique designed to emulate the way a human brain works, to find a matching or similar item. This enables shoppers, for example, to source a dress worn by a celebrity. “That does not exist on Amazon today,” he says. 奥纬咨询(Oliver Wyman)亚太区数据和分析主管爱德华?德梅泽拉克(Edouard de Mezerac)介绍了阿里巴巴的第三方电商平台淘宝网(Taobao)正在经历的另一个变化。它允许用户通过图片进行搜索,利用深度学习(一种旨在模拟人类大脑运作方式的技术)找到相同或类似的商品。比如,这可以让购物者搜索某个名人穿的裙子。“现在这种技术在亚马逊(Amazon)的平台上还不存在,”他表示。 It is still early days for the industry but applications such as these hint at how the country could take the global lead, say analysts, especially as companies ramp up how they use the technology. 分析师们表示,该行业在利用AI方面仍处于起步阶段,但是这类应用暗示了中国如何可能居于全球领先地位,特别是随着企业加快利用相关技术。 Anand Swaminathan, a senior partner at consultants McKinsey, highlights two further factors that set China apart from Silicon Valley. “Their consumer testing ground is bigger than anywhere in the world,” he says. “Here they are testing with 1bn-plus people so for that reason the US is automatically handicapped. And the pace and scale of investment is fundamentally higher.” 咨询公司麦肯锡(McKinsey)高级合伙人阿南德?斯瓦米纳坦(Anand Swaminathan)列举了让中国跑赢硅谷的另外两个因素。“他们的消费者测试场比世界上其他任何地方都大,”他表示,“他们在这里能够借助10亿以上人口进行测试,因此美国在这方面先天不足。而且中国的投资速度和规模从根本上高于美国。” The Chinese also generate far more data that is far more accessible. While Apple and Google have sought to fortify user data against governments, most notably last year when it thwarted the FBI’s attempt to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone. Chinese companies are less coy. 中国还产生在规模和易于获取程度上远超其他地区的数据。苹果(Apple)和谷歌都试图顶住政府的压力来保护用户数据,最突出的例子是去年苹果拒绝帮助美国联邦调查局(FBI)解锁圣贝纳迪诺(San Bernardino)枪击者的iPhone。中国企业没那么不配合。 Delegates at this month’s Fortune Global Conference in Guangzhou enjoyed unusual access to Google, Facebook and Twitter, services that are normally blocked in China. “I spoke to a number of folks here who said, ‘How nice of them to provide free WiFi so I can access everything’,” says Mr Swaminathan. “But that means [the companies] can access everything of yours.” 本月在广州参加《财富》全球论坛的代表们,不同寻常地得以访问谷歌、Facebook和Twitter这些正常情况下在中国被屏蔽的服务。“我在这里听到很多人说,‘他们提供免费WiFi多好啊,这样我能访问一切服务’,”斯瓦米纳坦表示,“但是这意味着(这些公司)可以获得你所有的信息。” A hint of what could be coming from China’s tech giants is how they might use AI in communications and healthcare. 至于中国科技巨头未来可能推出什么新颖产品和服务,从他们在通信和医疗行业可能如何利用AI可见一斑。 Alibaba is taking the voice-activated personal assistant concept a step further than Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, with a plan to deploy ticket dispensing machines in subway stations that can cancel out background noise and focus purely on the person ordering the tickets. 阿里巴巴目前采用的语音激活个人助手概念比苹果的Siri和亚马逊的Alexa领先一步,该公司计划在地铁站推出可以过滤掉背景杂音、只听订票者说话的售票机。 The technology itself — essentially combining microphones and cameras to identify the speaker — has “a long history in research”, says Zhijie Yan, who heads up the speech interaction research at Alibaba. 阿里巴巴语音交互研究主管鄢志杰表示,该技术本身——本质上是结合麦克风和摄像头来识别说话人——“的研发历史很长”。 What is new, he says, is its application into a real product, helped by improving technology, which means personal assistants can move to public arenas: airports, train stations, restaurants and reception desks. 他表示,新颖之处在于,在不断改进的技术的帮助下,把它应用于实际产品,这意味着个人助手可能进入公共场所:机场、火车站、餐厅和前台。 Smarter AI and bigger data caches apply to medical applications too. Tencent is among those looking to corral the technology into detecting lung cancer at an early stage. 智能程度更高的AI和更庞大的数据规模也适用于医疗应用场合。腾讯是打算把该技术应用于检测早期肺癌的公司之一。 Helping on that score are cross-border collaborations, led by university researchers, such as a project enabling researchers in Hong Kong to access American databases so computers can learn to recognise the features of malignant nodules. 推动这方面进展的是由高校研究员牵头的跨境合作,比如某个项目让香港的研究员能够访问美国数据库,以便让计算机可以学习恶性结节的特征。 David Lam, assistant professor and specialist in respiratory medicine at the University of Hong Kong, says it will be five years before early results from projects materialise. 香港大学(University of Hong Kong)助理教授、呼吸内科专家大卫?林(David Lam)表示,项目得出初步结果将需要5年时间。 One reason is that data sharing is complicated by the fact different ethnicities have different characteristics. Lung cancer affords one example: in the US, UK and much of the world, the main cause is smoking. That is not the case in Hong Kong, Taiwan and South China, where there is also far more prevalence among women. 其中一个原因是,由于不同民族有不同的特征,数据共享比较复杂。肺癌就是这方面的一个例子:在美国、英国以及世界大部分地区,肺癌的主要病因是吸烟。但在香港、台湾以及中国南方不是这样,这些地区女性的发病率高得多。 纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

Other early stage efforts that have come in for criticism over concerns that they have little real-world application include programmes that beat world champions of chess and Go. 一些早期努力因为缺乏实用性而招致批评,包括打败围棋和国际象棋世界冠军的程序。 But Si Chen, senior strategy manager at Tencent’s AI lab, says the requisite perception and decision-making learning to beat those games will resonate. 但是腾讯AI实验室的高级战略经理陈思(音)表示,赢得这些游戏所必需的感知和决策学习将具有借鉴价值。 “In the real world that is the same as self-driving,” she says. “Based on your sensors or what you can see, you have an understanding of the environment and from that be able to make decisions and take an action, which could be to turn the steering wheel left or brake.” “在现实世界中,这就跟自动驾驶一样,”她表示,“基于你的传感器或者你能看见的情况,你对环境有一个了解,据此可以作决定和采取行动,比如向左打方向盘或是刹车。”

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