Cuban and Chinese universities are moving forward with the creation of a joint “International Research Institute of Artificial Intelligence.” The project is intended to bring economic benefits to ailing Cuba while enlisting more scientists in China’s bid to achieve AI dominance, the countries confirmed this week.
The project is headed up by Cuba’s Camagüey University and the Hebei University of International Studies in China, although most of Cuba’s top universities and tech academies are also involved. Cuba’s Yaile Caballero has been named director of the AI institute.
“The center is also expected to involve specialists from Spain and Belgium,” Caballero said on Monday.
Caballero cited the importance of artificial intelligence technology in many areas of scientific research and economic development, adding that the project would provide an opportunity for Cuban researchers to demonstrate their “capacity and potential.”
Many details of the AI institute have yet to be worked out, prominently including precisely where it will be located, although Caballero’s comments implied it would be physically headquartered somewhere in Cuba.
Cuban researchers have been pitching themselves to China as a useful resource for AI research for years, presenting a large-scale joint AI project as a means for the Chinese Communist Party to help Communist Cuba build up international prestige and escape economic pressure from the United States. The Cubans see themselves as trailblazers in the field, having established a primordial society for AI research in the late 1990s.
China’s effort to take the lead in artificial intelligence technology has assumed dimensions comparable to the U.S.-Soviet Union “space race” of the 1960s, driven by both political direction from Communist Party chief Xi Jinping and the aggressive early adoption of AI systems by Chinese businesses.
Xi has described the AI race as China’s opportunity to seize a leadership position in a technological revolution on par with the Industrial Revolution and the creation of the Internet. The Chinese believe Communist societies have a unique advantage in AI research because they have fewer scruples about amassing huge databases filled with private information and using powerful computer systems to manipulate the lives of their citizens.
The Communists see Western concerns about digital privacy and lingering apprehension about subjecting human activity to the control of autonomous computer systems as major stumbling blocks.
Thus, while Chinese billionaires are declaring their commitment to cutting-edge AI research and racing to deploy the new technology as fast as possible, American billionaires such as Mark Cuban are telling young audiences, “Let me scare the s**t out of you, all right? If you don’t think by the time most of you are in your mid-40s that a Terminator will appear, you’re crazy.”
The less histrionic critics of AI grumble its transformational power has been vastly overhyped. They have a point about overheated media coverage, but for what it’s worth, Communist China and Communist Cuba are placing some heavy bets on its future.