Taiwan goes in big on the AI craze

The Taiwanese Ministry of Science and Technology has put its money where its mouth is to make a mark on the world of artificial intelligence with a NT$16 billion (£410 million) investment.

The AI craze is very quickly gathering pace in every aspect of our lives, and those at the top of the pile will be sitting on mountains of cash before too long. Like AWS’ rise to power through the normalization of cloud computing, AI has the potential to create more global technology super powers, and the Taiwanese government want to clamber into the race.

According to the China Post, the AI development plan will come from Taiwan’s flagship infrastructure bill and the Cabinet’s annual budget, aiming to create a series of research labs across the country. The focal point will be an AI manufacturing base in Central Taiwan Science Park, set to open in September, as well as an AI development centre in Southern Taiwan Science Park imminently. These will only be two of the bases which will spread across the country as the investment hits bank accounts over the next four to five years.

The cash itself will be used to fund five initiatives:

  • AI-based public services
  • ‘Adding value’ to sectors like medicine and finance using AI
  • Helping companies incorporate AI
  • Promoting public participation in AI development
  • Building up innovation capacity for smart robotics

The final one, smart robotics, is an area which has stayed below the radar to date. One of the reasons is going to be from a development perspective as it is immensely complicated to build machines which act like us seamlessly, but another might be a bit closer to home. Maybe we’re just not ready for AI-driven robots.

Most technological revolutions are drip fed to the general public to normalize the idea. This is especially true for AI, which plays a much more significant role than many would assume already. For some, progress in AI will be treated with scepticism and fear. The drip feed is necessarily to make sure the technology is not rejected outright. If the steps forward are too big, it might threaten progress.

For those who fear AI, seeing a walking, talking and thinking robot might be too similar to disaster movies which has the robot tearing around the world killing, maiming and destroying. The introduction of AI has to be carefully managed, though it would appear the technology giants do appreciate this.

Taiwan’s smart robotic initiative, which is probably more focused on the manufacturing or agricultural verticals, aims to invest just over £50 million, creating 50 companies, employing 4000 people and creating 30 new technologies over the next four years. It isn’t focused on what most people would imagine AI-driven robots looking like, but it certainly is a bold ambition.

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