While China has already surpassed the US in number of published AI papers, the country’s AI researchers are poised to be in the top 50 per cent of most cited papers this year and in the top 10 per cent next year, according to findings by the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, a Seattle-based non-profit that conducts research and engineering projects.
The results, which drew on a database of 2 million papers published up to 2018, show that the US share of citations in the top 10 per cent of AI papers has declined gradually from 47 per cent in 1982 to 29 per cent last year. China, on the other hand, has risen to over 26 per cent of citations in 2018.
“Citation counts are a lagging indicator of impact, so our results may understate the rising impact of AI research originating in China,” said the report that was published on Wednesday.
The findings highlight the latest efforts made by the world’s two superpowers in what has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution, and provides a new gauge for academics to measure strength in AI research.
Last month, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order on maintaining “American leadership in AI”. The initiative, which directed federal agencies to prioritise investments in research and development in the field, was seen by some as a response to China’s ambition to create a domestic AI industry worth 1 trillion yuan (US$147 billion) and become a global AI powerhouse by 2030.
The world’s second largest economy is on a mission to roll out AI in all walks of life, from catching jaywalkers and saving toilet paper by using facial recognition to more loftier applications such as self-driving cars and medical diagnosis.
China has led the world in the number of patent filings in AI since 2014, followed by the US, according to the World Intellectual Property organisation. The two countries are home to the majority of heavyweight AI start-ups, accounting for 10 of the top 11 AI unicorns – private companies with a valuation of US$1 billion or above – according to a separate compilation by CB Insights.
China overtook the US in the number of AI research papers in 2006, well before Beijing unveiled its 2030 AI blueprint in 2017, according to the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.