Baidu is a Chinese search giant. It has left its Partnership for PAI (an AI company). The Partnership is a US-led effort to boost collaboration on the ethical challenges raised by artificial intelligence.
Baidu is said to have cited the recent financial pressures and the cost of membership for the move. Nevertheless, the departure comes during growing challenges for people and companies in the two countries to collaborate. Moreover, relations between China and the United States worsen. Thus, when it comes to critical technologies like artificial intelligence, it is hard for them to find common ground.
Baidu said, in a statement, that it is sharing the vision of the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence. Thus, it is committed to promoting the ethical development of artificial intelligence technologies. They are having discussions concerning renewing their membership. They remain open to other opportunities of collaboration with industry peers on advancing artificial intelligence.
Terah Lyons is the executive director of PAI. She said that, in considering this decision, the company cited a weaker financial outlook. Moreover, Lyons added that Baidu is remaining committed to their mission. Thus, it hopes to be able to gain back membership in 2021.
Nevertheless, the withdrawal coincides with increasing criticism of Chinese artificial intelligence companies. There is a more hostile attitude in Washington. Due to the alleged supplying of technology used for state surveillance, the United States government has tightened trade restrictions on China’s top Artificial Intelligence firms. Nevertheless, that has not affected Baidu so far.
Paul Triolo is at the Eurasia Group’s practice as head of geo-technology. Eurasia Group is a think tank. Triolo said, after Baidu joined PAI, and that the whole issue of Artificial Intelligence and China became like a hot potato. Besides them, no other companies in China have joined.
PAI refused to discuss the dues of Baidu as a member. The annual report of the organization from last year said that its projected revenue is at $8.1 million. That suggests its 23 for-profit members each contributed in the low to mid-six figures. In 2019, Baidu reported $15.4 billion in revenue.
Baidu is the Google of China. It operates the most significant web search engine in the country. Moreover, in recent years, it diversified to focus on Artificial Intelligence and related areas, for example, self-driving cars. Numerous automotive companies in China and elsewhere use the company’s Apollo platform for automated vehicles.
With some backing from IBM, Google, Facebook, and Amazon, PAI established itself in 2016. Human Rights Watch, Apple, and the UN joined the organization later.
Since Baidu joined, relations between China and the United States have gone into a tailspin. The United States government took increasingly aggressive actions against tech companies in China. This was partly because China’s new-found technological capabilities had implications for America’s technological standing in the world.
The United States banned six AL companies (not including Baidu) last October from doing business with United States firms. The government tightened restrictions aimed at telecommunications giant Huawei, in March. Huawei invested heavily in artificial intelligence. Those restrictions were intended to prevent it from obtaining the latest microchips.