A Chinese internet giant called Tencent (one of the largest corporations in China) recently announced that they would build an artificial intelligence lab in Seattle.

To understand what forces steer the trajectory of our future now, and where we will be in the future, we must pay attention to moves like this.

Few available details can be found from articles like this one from Technology Review:

“One of China’s biggest tech companies, Tencent, is establishing an AI research lab in Seattle, demonstrating a growing determination to master a technology that looks set to define the future of many industries.

Tencent is already one of China’s dominant tech companies. It operates the hugely successful mobile chat app WeChat—which boasts over 889 million active users in China—along with lots of other social tools, e-commerce services, games, and the like.

Based in Shenzhen, a manufacturing hub in the southeastern part of the country, Tencent has the potential to become a key player in the development and commercialization of artificial intelligence. The company has the money, the reach, and the data to attract strong researchers.”

For more perspective, a little research on Tencent reveals they recently spent over a billion dollars on shares of Elon Musk’s company Tesla.

According to Tech Crunch:

“Tencent, Asia’s second highest valued tech firm, has bought a five percent share in Tesla. According to a filing, the Chinese firm scooped up 8,167,544 shares for around $1.7 billion to become one of Tesla’s largest shareholders.”

Elon is known for expressing concerns about artificial intelligence but his actions consistently show a different intention. Earlier this year he made headlines about wanting to merge man with machine, with articles such as this one from the Verge reading:

“SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company, which is still in the earliest stages of existence and has no public presence whatsoever, is centered on creating devices that can be implanted in the human brain, with the eventual purpose of helping human beings merge with software and keep pace with advancements in artificial intelligence. These enhancements could improve memory or allow for more direct interfacing with computing devices.

Musk has hinted at the existence of Neuralink a few times over the last six months or so. More recently, Musk told a crowd in Dubai, “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence.” He added that “it’s mostly about the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself, particularly output.””

Tencent is placing a man from Microsoft at the helm of this AI lab. According to the Technology Review article:

“Indeed, Tencent also announced a significant new AI hire. Yu Dong, a prominent expert on speech recognition and deep learning, will become the deputy director of the company’s AI lab, and he will oversee the operation of the lab in Seattle. Yu was previously a principal researcher at Microsoft, where he worked on applying deep learning to voice recognition, an approach that has produced dramatic advances in accuracy over the past few years.”

What are these people really trying to do?

A question people might want to ask is, do we really need artificial intelligence? Do we really need much more technology, and at what point will we just say “that’s enough technology for now,” and perhaps just choose to do different things with the technology we already have?
It seems that wealthy players looking for a new market to tap into are trying to steer us in a direction that would make their new market, but we’re collectively stumbling and not living as wisely as we could, with not enough.

Some will fall for the promise of a better life with some technological advancement pushed by people seeking to exploit a new market, and some will choose to find happiness and prosperity with something else or what they already have.

Not all new technology is inherently against the freedom and prosperity of our class of people, but a lot of it could easily, so easily steer us into a direction we can’t get out of.

So maybe we should ask, do we really need this?

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