Vcompared to the fuss made by the question-answering robot ChatGPT late last year, it wasn’t the big hit Alibaba unveiled on Tuesday. “Tongyi Qianwen” is the name of the new artificial intelligence of the Chinese internet giant. Translated, this means something like “The truth out of a thousand questions”. That sounds like more than it is: The new chat robot from China, which is intended to compete with the Californian model ChatGPT, has so far presented itself primarily as a diligent office help.
The program, which is to be integrated into all Alibaba products, helps with the office communication software Ding Talk with writing letters, automatically recording conversations, planning business trips, taking notes during lengthy conferences and creating business offers.
However, because these are all very useful things that Alibaba wants to make available to customers of its cloud services from now on, the exchange reacted benevolently to the latest ChatGPT competitor from the Middle Kingdom on Tuesday. By the close of trading, the price of Alibaba shares on the Hong Kong stock exchange, which had been badly battered over the past two and a half years, had risen by 1.6 percent.
According to Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang, artificial intelligence will change everything – “the way we produce, work and live our lives”. The latter meant the fact that Alibaba’s chat software should also be integrated into the intelligent loudspeakers that end customers have in their living rooms and, like Amazon’s “Alexa”, could previously order goods from the Chinese group’s various online department stores. Now the artificial intelligence should also be able to recite healthy recipes, give travel tips and read children a bedtime story.
The distrust of the political leadership
Sensetime’s artificial intelligence can also tell children stories, as the Hong Kong-based company presented in an elaborate presentation of its own ChatGPT competitor on Monday shortly before Alibaba’s AI unveiling. As with the Microsoft-funded OpenAI model, users can talk to the chat robot and ask it to program software – or create complicated 3D models, or turn images into videos.
Sensetime’s shares were down nearly 1 percent by the close on Tuesday, after temporarily rising 11 percent on the back of the new chat robot SenseChat. This has to do with the fact that China’s government wants to put a stop to the hype that ChatGPT unleashed in the Middle Kingdom four months ago.
The price of Baidu also fell sharply on Tuesday, which also presented its own chat robot weeks ago. And Alibaba’s course would certainly have risen more sharply if Beijing’s Internet regulator had not announced on the same day that it wanted to regulate the development of artificial intelligence harshly: Before it could be unleashed on customers, the products would first have to undergo a state “security check”. The state supports innovations in its tech industry. But their chat robots would have to internalize “socialist values”. The new rules are expected to come into effect later in the year.
How suspicious the leadership is of the development of AI was already apparent from an editorial in the newspaper “Economic Daily” published by the State Council on Monday. All the investments in China in a clone product to ChatGPT have led to a “bubble” that is not justified by corresponding technological advances. As a result, the share prices of smaller AI developers in particular had plummeted.
Everyone is jumping on the “ChatGPT train”.
In fact, the government is not entirely alone in its opinion. At the beginning of the week, the business magazine “Caixin”, which is quite serious compared to the propaganda press, described in a cover story how small startups as well as large corporations such as Alibaba also tried to jump on the “ChatGPT train”. For example, Wang Huiwen, who became wealthy as a co-founder of the meal delivery service Meituan, invested 50 million dollars out of his own pocket in the development of a chat robot in February and shortly afterwards also took over a start-up that specializes in machine learning.
At a conference in Beijing, the former China boss of Google, Kai-Fu Lee, recently announced that the chance of making a breakthrough in the mass market with artificial intelligence is ten times higher than before after the attention caused by ChatGPT. According to experts, the problem with the gold rush is the lack of tools for digging: For example, the “training” of a chat robot like ChatGPT requires significantly higher investments of almost 300 million dollars than all the small startups are able to do.
Above all, the mass use of high-performance chips from American manufacturers is necessary, which since October has not been allowed to sell them to China without special permission. 10,000 so-called A100 chips are needed for a product like ChatGPT. In China, however, there are only 40,000 of these chips, “Caixin” quotes the CEO of Megvii, a Beijing manufacturer of facial recognition software – and almost all of them are in the hands of large corporations such as Alibaba and Baidu.