Microsoft Issues Warning About Chinese AI That Microsoft Helped Create

Schoolchildren walk below surveillance cameras in Akto, south of Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang region. (Photo by Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images)

Late last month, Microsoft President Brad Smith issued a dire warning. He noted that a Chinese operation—the “Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence”—was only months behind his own company and Google in the AI technological race.

He then raised alarm about AI’s potential as a weapon. “We should absolutely assume, and even expect, that certain nation states will use AI to launch cyber attacks, even stronger cyber attacks and cyber influence operations than we see today,” he told Japan-based news magazine Nikkei Asia. By “certain nation states,” of course, he was referring to China.

Of the many concerned statements about AI technology, Smith’s remarks may win the prize for most ironic—or, to be more precise—hypocritical. That’s because China’s AI success is due in no small part to its long-time partnership with a certain American company: Microsoft. The company has for decades helped China build up its AI infrastructure—a partnership the U.S. government ought to investigate.

In 1998, as a way of combating piracy of his company’s software, Microsoft founder Bill Gates invested time, money, and energy in China, culminating in the creation of Microsoft Research China, later renamed Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA).

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