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AI Superpowers

China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
Written by: Kai-Fu Lee
Narrated by: Mikael Naramore
Length: 9 hrs and 28 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (174 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Here are two well-known facts:

Artificial Intelligence is reshaping the world as we know it.

The United States has long been, and remains, the global leader in AI.

That first fact is correct. But in his provocative new book, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee - one of the world’s most respected experts on AI - reveals that China has suddenly caught up to the US at an astonishingly rapid pace. As the US-Sino competition begins to heat up, Lee envisions China and the US forming a powerful duopoly in AI, but one that is based on each nation’s unique and traditional cultural inclinations. 

Building upon his longstanding US-Sino technology career (working at Apple, Microsoft, and Google) and his much-heralded New York Times Op-Ed from June 2017, Dr. Lee predicts that Chinese and American AI will have a stunning impact on not just traditional blue-collar industries but will also have a devastating effect on white-collar professions. Is the concept of universal basic income the solution? In Dr. Lee’s opinion, probably not. 

In AI Superpowers, he outlines how millions of suddenly displaced workers must find new ways to make their lives meaningful, and how government policies will have to deal with the unprecedented inequality between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Even worse, Lee says the transformation to AI is already happening all around us, whether we are aware of it or not.

Dr. Lee - a native of China but educated in America - argues powerfully that these unprecedented developments will happen much sooner than we think. He cautions us about the truly dramatic upheaval that AI will unleash and how we need to start thinking now on how to address these profound changes that are coming to our world.

©2018 Kai-Fu Lee. (P)2018 Brilliance Publishing, Inc., all rights reserved.

What listeners say about AI Superpowers

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    5 out of 5 stars

Listen to this if you want insight of the future

Well worth the listen and you will be better off after having listened to this thoughtful book!!

1 person found this helpful

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Easy to read and highly important

Great book for anyone interested in AI. He looks at how AI will create massive inequality and how humans and machines can coexist. Highly recommend.

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Great Insight to the Future

I have this book in Kindle format but later got in Audio for a deal so decided to listen rather than read. Either way I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about how China's Tech economy works and grows as well as to get an understanding of the emphasis on AI and it's development in business today.

Kai-Fu Lee is a man who has gone through a lot in life particularly with regards to his work life. He has been part of early Google, Apple and Microsoft in leadership roles. His understanding of how AI has grown and what it means to society as a whole opened my eyes on a subject, I thought I knew something about. For myself, one of the most interesting observations/comparisons he makes is about how people in the West generally don't give Chinese entrepreneurs and successful businesses the respect they should. His revelation of how most Westerners think that companies like Alibaba and WeChat exist simply because they have no competition and are protected by the Chinese Government when in fact they had to survive an onslaught of some of the craziest cut throat competitions you could imagine. In China not only is illegal copying and stealing of ideas to make them your own encouraged but can be rewarded, to an extent. In the West patents and trademarks protect companies and then they seem to get lazy. A great comparison that the author gives is between Yelp and I believe Dazhong Dianping. As he notes Yelp was there first, I believe, and once gaining a foothold in the restaurant review sphere simply laid back and made money on advertising. Dazhong Dianping created fleets of delivery drivers, worked directly with restaurants to setup Groupon type deals and did a lot of boots on ground work to become the Goliath it is out there. Yelp realized it was slowly fading and tried to get involved in the delivery service but ended up failing and selling it off then went back to resting. Dazhong Dianping is still going strong.

At the end of the book the story moves on to Kai-Fu Lee's personal story and how it awakened a future vision of how AI can co-exist with humanity in a positive way as opposed to the view that it will create mass unemployment making life manageable for only the 1%. I like where he went with this vision.

I highly recommend both the Kindle and Audiobook. I am reviewing the Audible so in addition to the strong review of the story I give 5 stars to the reader as well who kept me interested in the story, his voice matching the feel of the book.

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Fascinating

this book is an optimistic insiders view of how a I will change society. I don't completely share his perspective, but I learned a lot and I'm glad I read it. many of the issues raised in the book have come to the fore with the current 5G controversy.

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Chinese propaganda

it's like the book comes from the perspective of a ccp sympathizer. it argues the case subtly that the theft of intellectual property from another country is okay, as is cut throat business. I didn't enjoy it.

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A great read/listen

It is a great insight into the future, what’s coming what to do and ideas on how to navigate an unknown future.

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Surprises after surprises

I hadn't expected to like this book so much but I did. Kai-Fu discussed the history, development and the future of AI with elements I have never seen discussed elsewhere. My favourite chapters are the last ones where he talks about the future of AI and what it means to be human in a world where AI seems to takeover. Give this book a try! 👍

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Information from someone with high achievements.

His resume is impressive. Tons of experience and clear knowledge in AI. provided valuable information that other books would probably not provide.

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  • Js
  • 2019-12-09

great book great end

This book is really interesting to understand the current situation in China and us.

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If Predictions are TRUE then move over Stephen King

If his predictions come truer the. This is scarier than a Stephen King novel. Let’s hope not!

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  • Lee Ward
  • 2018-09-26

Compelled to listen at 2x speed

The writing was stilted. The author or whoever crafted the prose is the champion of buzzwords and cliches, putting the presentation into a slow motion slogfest. For me it was work getting to gratifying moments of stimulation. If exceptional nonfiction writers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) exist, who are they?

I doubt the narrator understood what he was reading most of the time or else even he could not rescue it. Unlike the audiobook's sample 3:25 min, almost all the book's narration is slow and mechanical. Yet the performer had truly outstanding pronunciation. I don't normally listen at high speeds but found it best to listen at 2x, and easier to understand at this higher speed. Try to tune out the cliches when you listen.

High Points:
1. Kai-Fu Lee explained how his experience with lymphoma (cancer) changed his relationship with artificial intelligence (AI). He returned to his youthful viewpoint that AI will show humans who we are in addition to improving our lives. He decided to change his habits and spend more time with his family. This was sincere and inspiring; I found it very moving even though it was expressed in an unnatural way as if the author were in a straight jacket.
2. Author weaved in references to famous Chinese entrepreneurs to show how Chinese culture and schools came to embrace AI in contrast to the West. They indeed love AI - it's in their blood, apparently. Their government backs this science financially and in other ways. It's about how China is implementing AI quickly on a grand scale and everybody there is into it. This made me understand that it's different in China, that AI is championed.
3. Author gives opinions of where AI is going and why. Kai-Fu Lee knows his stuff irrespective of his writing weakness; one naturally respects him for his expertise.

Low Points:
1. Author enthuses about Chinese entrepreneurs who steal intellectual property and accuse competitors of imagined crimes as China's "gladiators." He revels in this. Well if you're from China, this might be a high point due to national pride and even addiction. Lee is painfully careful to in no way be seen as criticizing the Party, not even indirectly, and this makes him come across as stilted. He retreats into slogans and platitudes so blatantly that I entertained thoughts of getting my credit back.
2. Author's dystopia prediction of what AI is going to do in the short run, namely, concentrate wealth more and more, left me feeling poorly. He made me feel that personal expression will be restricted too much.

Here's why I think some people should slog through the book: there aren't many good books on AI, so take what you can get. Further, I did it so I think you should do it - just kidding on that point.

134 people found this helpful

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  • Matthew Duncan
  • 2018-10-05

Mad-Max vs Gladiator vs Mother Theresa?

I almost came away from this book with a sense of hope and euphoria. Kai-fu's NDE knocked him out of the maximum-impact mindset, and elevated his thoughts to a much higher level benevolent, compassionate and socially responsible vista. But, like Bostrom, Tegmark, Kurzweil et al, he assumes there is a overlooking entity that will guide us to the mountaintop he describes ... while noting that all these corporations, governments and rogue militaries are hell-bent (mad max) on winning. He somehow glorifies China's wanton IP theft and copycat mentality as the initiation process to entrepreneurship. He is probably right that China has the ingredients to surpass the USA in AI, given it's massive data (AI power input), maniacal corporate initiative, insane levels of VC funding, millions of stary-eyed AI students, cut-throat internet industry and a government willing to cut corners and take safety risks that will hobble the U.S. But ... that is ONLY if the optimization response surface is a smooth gradient accent with incremental improvements driven by the noted factors. But, is it? He does a fantastic job of reviewing the reports of job (tasks) attrition due to AI productivity enhancements ... and notes how this will effect different classes of workers. But, is China building an AI card-house ... with energy input from its feedback loop driving the temple higher. .. while leaving a pyramid of useless-class people behind? Isnt China at a much higher risk of collapse, with the structure of it's population and this exalted gladiator mentality? The way I see it, China will either burn the card house underneath it ... or will succeed in accomplishing Kai-fu's dream. In the first case, we ought to worry about the global geopolitical repercussions. Will the 'hordes' (disenchanted) of highly skilled hackers go on a cyber mad-max rampage across the mega-connected world? And then, what of the world's response, with AI driven counterattacks? And then, when there are millions of conflict points, how do you contain the respose to massive destruction events that take out critical infrastructure and systems?
Unless the USA/China/Russia form tightly knit cooperation pacts and joint development programs right now, its going to get ugly fast.

24 people found this helpful

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  • John Brynjolfsson
  • 2018-10-22

Indespensible, fact filled, captivating narrative on AI.

Brilliant case for authors’ thesis.

That 1) AI’s impact will be great, 2) China has more data and more granular data for powering AI, 3) China central planning of AI venture capital, policy and infrastructure is superior to US/market, so China will pull ahead in race, 4) That too rapid AI advancement will displace too many workers, so rather than nothing, or Universal Basic Income, credits for community volunteering are needed, 5) Love and relationships are meaning of life.

Author is world renowned expert on 1, 2, 3! On rest I am less convinced. Yes, as human he can comment on human condition, including mortality. He is honest and vulnerable. Kudos.

On UBI, etc, he is an amateur.

I personally was unable to reconcile his call for more centrally planned funding, to accelerate advanced AI technology, even to point of acknowledging funding beyond what is financially viable, in the interest of advancing technology. Then long lecture on how then additional central planning (retraining, reduction in work week, redistribution of income) is needed to solve social problems that advancement creates. And hegoes on to say the meaning of life does not revolve around advancement but around old fashioned love and relationships. (I agree, but then find it odd that subsidizing accelerating of advancement is advised in same breath.)

9 people found this helpful

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  • See Reverse
  • 2019-04-06

Ego. Nationalism. Recovery.

This book is built on a foundation of ego, nationalism, and recovery. With experience across Apple, Google, TED, and various start-ups, Kai-Fu Lee definitely has the experience and credibility to write about AI. The early part of the book is strong on Chinese Nationalism, which is relevant but a bit over the top. The middle portion of the book focuses on the ego of the author as he strived for prestige in the AI community. The final chapters deal with the impact of AI on society, cast in the light of a personal struggle of the author. There are moments of clarity in this journey, but overall there's just too must distraction to what could have been a compelling book on the impact of the rise of AI on the balance of world power.

20 people found this helpful

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  • James S.
  • 2018-09-29

Controversial, otherwise even-handed; non-tech

Be mindful of why people are giving this book low votes: I'm sure many westerners will find Lee's tone in this book somewhat condescending with respect to Chinese dominance over the rest of the world. But look past the condescension, and you might find great value here. He gives an up to the minute, non-technical report of technologies relating to AI, and China's rapid developments in the area since its overnight adoption of AI in 2013. He offers an overall even-handed perspective, despite his exaggerated Chinese nationalism, with emphasis on the benefits and advantages China has gained, and will continue to gain, by copy-catting, pirating, and cheating.

Lee's discussion on the pros and cons of universal basic income (UBI) trivialises its complexities. And I completely disagree with what I took to be his opinion of what careers will mean to humanity in the near future; his opinion leans toward the creation of more caring, dutiful work that citizens are to be tasked with in order to justify their base pay. I lean more heavily toward allowing and incentivizing people with the freedom to innovate cutting-edge and worthwhile products and ideas, rather than treating work as tasks that all citizens on UBI are dutifully obligated to complete. This seems to be the major difference in the majority mindset between the Free World and Communist-type Nations.

Overall a worthwhile book, despite the exaggerated Chinese nationalism (this might be a pro for Chinese listeners).

27 people found this helpful

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  • Han
  • 2019-03-12

Questionable if the book stayed objective

The book started out analytically enough, and focused on the things relevant to the title. Towards the end, it was more of a personal narrative, and whole that's not necessarily a bad thing, it does raise the question if the conclusions drawn at the end are objective and analytically correct, or more of a emotionally motivated idealism. Love is a powerful thing after all, but not a great thing for analyzing trends rationally.

5 people found this helpful

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  • A. Solomon
  • 2019-02-24

Repetitive propaganda

Although perhaps I shouldn't have expected an in depth review of AI from a book entitled AI Superpowers, I think it was reasonable to expect more from one of the preeminent minds in the field. Unfortunately, the first 2/3 of the book was repetitive orphans about how and why China will win the "war" over AI. The final 1/3 was about how he learned to value love.

Beyond not learning much from the book, the production was not the best. You could easily hear the edits because of changes in tone and pitch of the reader.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Trinity
  • 2019-01-10

Enthralling!

Throughout this book Lee goes from describing the history, technology, theories, development and eventual implementation of artificial intelligence as he himself grapples with his own definition of humanity. On one hand, he points to the dangers of exacerbated inequality that this new technology presents for millions while on the other he draws from personal life experiences to paint a picture where society coexists and benefits from this emerging revolution.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Reader
  • 2019-06-07

Narcissistic

Had to stop reading after investing 1 1/2 hours. Book on how China utilized intellectual property of other countries and turns them into better products- not only for China but for the rest of the world. Maybe I should have invested more of my valuable time, but I got turned off in a big way.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Pablo Lema
  • 2018-10-16

A Self Serving Tale

I found this book hard to swallow. Although the information on AI is quite interesting and up to date, my Lee's clear disdain for Silicon Valley and American entrepreneurs, comes across as self-serving as he is a multi-decade Silicon Valley insider. He also fails to hide his enthusiasm for China and the generally illegal and unethical practices of China's startup industry that he himself describes.

It is hard to believe Mr. Lee does not realize how biased he really is and this made an otherwise palatable book hard to enjoy.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Olivier F.
  • 2019-09-22

Un éclairage sur l’IA, ses conséquences et plus encore

Passionnant, et un ouvrage qui est construit comme un roman policier (suspense).
A lire ou écouter définitivement. De l’histoire au présent et au futur!