China’s tech giant, Baidu, has unveiled its AI chatbot, ERNIE Bot, to the public, marking a significant development in China’s AI landscape. This move aligns with the Chinese government’s recent regulations to enable domestic AI developers to compete globally while maintaining strict control over online information.
Domestic AI for Chinese Users
ERNIE Bot is the first fully available domestic AI app for the Chinese public, emphasizing its exclusivity within the country. Baidu has expressed its enthusiasm, announcing that ERNIE Bot is open to the general public since August 31, 2023. Additionally, Baidu plans to introduce a suite of AI-native apps that will empower users to explore generative AI’s four core abilities: understanding, generation, reasoning, and memory.
While ERNIE Bot was initially released in March, its availability was limited. With this public launch, Baidu aims to gather extensive user feedback to enhance the app’s capabilities rapidly.
Generative AI at the Core
Generative AI applications, including chatbots like ERNIE Bot, rely on vast datasets and user interactions to deliver human-like responses, even to complex queries.
However, these Chinese AI apps must adhere to “the core values of socialism” and not pose threats to national security, following the guidelines published by the government.
ERNIE Bot’s Responses
During a test conducted by AFP news agency, ERNIE Bot effortlessly answered routine questions such as “What is the capital of China?” and “Do you have any hobbies?” However, when questioned about sensitive topics like the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989, it responded by changing the topic, as discussions about Tiananmen are banned in China, and related online information is tightly controlled.
Regarding Taiwan, a self-governing island claimed by China, ERNIE Bot expressed China’s territorial stance before redirecting the conversation.
When asked if any topic could be freely discussed, ERNIE Bot acknowledged freedom of discussion but cautioned about sensitivity and legal issues, highlighting the user’s responsibility.
Global Race in AI Development
The success of the US-based ChatGPT by OpenAI has sparked a global competition to develop rival AI applications. However, concerns persist about potential misuse and disinformation.
Under China’s new regulations, AI developers must conduct security assessments and provide algorithm-related filings to authorities for software impacting “public opinion.” Content generated by AI also requires proper labeling.
Baidu’s foray into the AI chatbot market is a significant step in China’s tech sector, reflecting its commitment to AI development and its ambition to compete on the world stage.
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