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Beijing unveils new draft policy on Artificial Intelligence

The Beijing government has unveiled a new draft policy supporting the Chinese capital city’s artificial intelligence (AI) industry, which includes the provision of state-funded computing power for relevant companies, as the country sees renewed interest in the technology amid intensified rivalry with the US.

The policy, which is aimed at “grabbing and seizing” opportunities in large language models (LLMs) and the field of artificial general intelligence (AGI), tasks Beijing with synergising resources and facilitating an innovative ecosystem to bolster its leading position in AI innovation, according to a notice published on the Beijing municipal government’s website last Friday.

Besides LLMs and AGI, three other areas are highlighted: computing power, training data, and regulations.

The government is soliciting public feedback on the draft through Friday.

Beijing’s move to coordinate computing resources, which is one of the most critical components for training AI models, comes as the US has been dialling up its export restrictions on high-end chips, including California-based Nvidia’s top-end A100 graphics processing unit, which is used for training and deploying large-scale AI models.

The draft policy calls for top-tier public cloud service providers to collaborate and pool their computing power for use by Beijing-based tertiary institutions, research facilities, and small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Public cloud refers to any technology platform that lets customers access shared storage and computing power via the internet.

Under the policy, the development of computing power projects will be accelerated to support the training of LLMs with hundreds of billions of parameters. These include the Beijing AI Public Computing Platform in Haidian district, and the Beijing Digital Economy Computing Centre located in Chaoyang district.

Parameters are the variables used in training an AI model. In general, the more the parameters, the more powerful a model becomes. GPT-3, the model originally underpinning Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT, has around 175 billion parameters. Google’s competing service Bard was trained with 137 billion parameters.

However, the Beijing government, in its draft policy, also acknowledged the challenge posed by the lack of high-quality Chinese language materials that can be used as training data.

In light of the difficulties, Beijing will be looking to combine existing open-source pre-training data sets with better Chinese text found on the internet to correct corrupted or inaccurate records before putting them to use, a process it calls “cleansing”.

Cleaned data that is in compliance with Chinese regulations, including text, images, audio and video, will be open for public use through Beijing’s International Big Data Exchange.

China’s rigid censorship, which limits the amount of data available for training AI models, could impede its technological ambitions, analysts have warned.

“Even if AI companies might be able to access and utilise global data and research resources to train their AI models, it is unlikely that Chinese authorities will allow them to use what they deem politically sensitive materials in their replies,” Dahlia Peterson, a research analyst at Georgetown University’s Centre for Security and Emerging Technology, said in an interview with the Post in February.

Beijing said in the policy that it will explore the creation of a “stable and tolerant regulatory environment” while promoting the use of generative AI in healthcare, scientific research, autonomous driving, and finance.

Beijing has been putting increasing emphasis on AI in recent months. Last week, the city’s technology promotion agency started soliciting subsidised research projects relevant to AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality, with 60 million yuan (US$8.6 million) earmarked for up to 12 projects over two years.

On Monday, Beijing announced it is hosting a forum at the end of this month focusing on AI development and international cooperation. South China Morning Post

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