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Inside the U.S. and China's Incoming Artificial Intelligence Cold War

The U.S., meanwhile, is actively pulling back from the world, deliberately alienating allies and turning its back on the rules-based international order it has invested in so deeply since 1945.

The second group focuses more on weaknesses in China: huge demographic change as China ages rapidly and has a much smaller workforce to support elders due to decades of the one-child policy, finally relaxed in 2013.

As Chinese growth slows and the leadership tightens the grip of one-party rule, the argument goes, the government will face repeated waves of social unrest.

Chinese investments abroad will generate as much resentment as influence, potentially leading to the same kinds of nationalization of Chinese assets as the U.S. faced in African and Latin American countries in the 1960s and '70s.

This view sees the U.S.'s pullback as less of a retrenchment than a recognition that it must encourage its allies, both East and West, to take on more active roles in upholding a multipolar global and regional order.

Experts and futurists focused on the rise of artificial intelligence as the next world-shifting technology—on par with the steam engine, electricity, and the digital revolution—see both China and the U.S. leaving other countries far behind.

Lee was born in Taiwan, educated in the U.S. beginning in middle school, founded and ran Google China, and is now chief executive officer of Sinovation Ventures, a venture capital firm investing in the next generation of Chinese high-tech companies.

In addition, he claims, the Chinese tech work ethic puts Americans to shame, and the far greater competition among start-ups in China requires teams to be more attentive to customizing their products for users while operating on razor-thin profit margins.

Interestingly, Lee leads the way, devoting the last part of AI Superpowers to his own realization, after receiving a cancer diagnosis, that his workaholism and fanatic devotion to building tech companies paled beside what was really important in life: "loving and being loved."

And yet they are developing products for white and Asian males at a time when the users of those products are 50 percent female (or more, given that women are more active on social media than men and make the majority of household purchasing decisions) and are ever more heterogeneous racially and ethnically.

Yet, assuming that the U.S. does in fact learn how to draw on all of its talent and embrace a national identity that reflects the world, American traditions of individualism, openness, rebellion, and humanism (notwithstanding a national infatuation with STEM) will offer the best chance of harnessing A.I.

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