AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order
By Kai-Fu Lee
Published in September 2018
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
AI Superpowers is a disorganized mishmash of ideas that were conceived by former director of Google China Kai-Fu Lee. The book doesn’t discuss AI at length, instead focusing on the Chinese startup ecosystem, and, at the end, Kai-Fu Lee’s struggles with cancer.
The first few chapters of the book are strong - I learned a lot about China’s startup ecosystem. Most interestingly, how it transferred from an imitation based system into an innovation system. I loved learning about how ruthlessly competitive the Chinese employees are; how companies openly use predatory pricing to subsidize their clients and drive competitors out; or how frumpy bureaucrats with secret passions for tech set up SEZs to increase innovation.
The book was written in 2018 but already feels dated. That isn’t the biggest problem.
Sadly, the book’s title is deceiving. There is barely any discussion of AI. What little discussion there is only scratches the surface, barely going any deeper than what you’d read on Wired Magazine or watch on a VICE News report. None of his takes, stories, and anecdotes on AI were new to me.
Finally, the last few chapters are tedious. Kai-Fu Lee talks about his struggles with cancer, how he distanced himself from his family, and how he felt like a robot. I couldn’t care less. If I wanted to read a book about an individual’s struggles with cancer, then I would have hoped for some forewarning in the title.
I do not recommend AI Super-Powers.
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