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AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  12,661 ratings  ·  1,461 reviews
Dr. Kai-Fu Lee—one of the world’s most respected experts on AI and China—reveals that China has suddenly caught up to the US at an astonishingly rapid and unexpected pace.

In AI Superpowers, Kai-fu Lee argues powerfully that because of these unprecedented developments in AI, dramatic changes will be happening much sooner than many of us expected. Indeed, as the US-Sino AI
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published September 25th 2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Jiri This is a typical cognitive dissonance, anything that does not fall in line with the official propaganda of US media on China must be clearly propagan…moreThis is a typical cognitive dissonance, anything that does not fall in line with the official propaganda of US media on China must be clearly propaganda of the Chinese government and we can safely discount it, right? It is the same thing we have done on infrastructure. Here in Silicon Valley we spent 17 years building 3 BART stations and they are not done yet, if that would take 2 months in China, everyone would be worried what took them so long. But what would be the typical answer in US? They've probably done a shady job and cut some corners. Yeah, maybe... but they built it 100 times faster. Even if it broke down and they had to rebuild it 20 times, they would still be 5 times faster than us. It is same here, we are just too complacent and keep telling ourselves convenient lies about China. Have you ever asked if any of the criticisms that you are expecting him to make even matter at all here or if they are just some of those excuses that you need to feel better about yourself?(less)
Tobias Boyd There's a Kindle edition now, if that works for you:…moreThere's a Kindle edition now, if that works for you:

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Mario the lone bookwolf
The distillation and preparation of the data for feeding the omniscient cyber oracle.

The culturally influenced, very different approach to research and integration of AI in society is interesting. So the methods to compensate for the loss of jobs and changes in society will be different and it will be interesting to see which strategies will be successful. And whether even more beneficial mixed forms from the best Asian and Western approaches will be mixed together.

Politics, especially democra
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
This book is an eye opener for those of us unfamiliar with the wide ranging capabilities and imminent impact of AI. Lee tells us about the development, design and future of AI and associated web and mobile technology. He contrasts Chinese work in AI with that in the US. While Chinese AI is based on technologies developed in the US, Chinese companies are now taking their own direction. Lee makes a strong case that AI will have profound consequences for society and determine the relative power of ...more
Dee Arr
Oct 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
{Words on Words 60-Second Spotlight Review: }

Early on, it is noticeable that Mr. Lee’s comments all favor his original premise, that China will eclipse the United States as a global superpower in the realm of international commerce. While I believe this is a possibility, the author’s view initially appeared tainted due to his relative closeness to the subject matter (viewing China as his homeland). Of course, the same could be said of me (living in the US), so I advise rea
100th book for 2018.

The book offers a fascinating look at the rise of the Chinese tech environment, why it's radically different from Silicon Valley, and why it may well ended up dominating the latter over the next couple of decades.

Lee, went from Taiwan to the US to study at 11 years old, and has worked in senior positions in both Google and Apple; founding Google China before leaving in 2009 to start up his on Chinese venture capital firm, can take both an insider and outsider perspective on
Patrick Hackett
May 13, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was hoping for an insightful read about the balance between the US and China and the current global state of AI, but instead the book basically evolved from cover letter to personal memoir, with a clear bias towards China throughout. Maybe I would have liked this more if I was previously familiar with Kai-Fu Lee, but I found "AI Superpowers" too heavy on the author bragging and not heavy enough on actual substance. ...more
This is a great book. It not only provides a history of AI both in the USA and China. Kai-Fu Lee also provides a history of AI’s both in the USA and China, and also incudes an in-depth analysis between China and the US’s approach to AI’s. He also discusses pros and cons of their abilities, engineering and politics.

The author explains technical methods so that a lay person can understand it. He also explains algorithms and data in an easy to understand manner. The author shows how AI’s effect our
Laura Noggle
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
“A clear-eyed look at the technology’s long-term impact has revealed a sobering truth: in the coming decades, AI’s greatest potential to disrupt and destroy lies not in international military contests but in what it will do to our labor markets and social systems. Appreciating the momentous social and economic turbulence that is on our horizon should humble us. It should also turn our competitive instincts into a search for cooperative solutions to the common challenges that we all face as human ...more
Woman Reading
3.5 ☆

Films, especially the "Terminator" series, had introduced me to a limited view of artificial intelligence (AI). AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee provided me with a broader big picture introduction to AI in terms of what it is, identifying the major players, and making some predictions about the future. Lee also includes many examples of companies' current innovations - from AI that can handily trounce world champion Go players to the ubiquitous digital wallet in China created by WeChat.

My un
Chip Huyen
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best book I've read on what's happening in the realm of AI. ...more
Don't you just love it when two worlds of your interests collide? Having read many science fiction works (and movies) featuring AI, I truly enjoyed the reading experience from this book. Funnily enough, he did made a reference to Hao Jingfang's story, Folding Beijing, when he talked about AGI, aka the Singularity.

As I said before in my placeholder review, it is highly informative. I learned about deep learning and its relation with data, what it takes for successful AI algorithms to take off. I
This is one of the most useful books to read if you want to understand China's rising dominance in the applications of A.I. technologies, written by none other than the highly respected expert of China's startup scene, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. While many Westerners might still associate China's tech companies with copycats or OEM sweatshops, this book makes it crystal clear why China has emerged as the world's model country for developing and integrating A.I. technologies into virtually every corner of i ...more
May 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I've read enough about automation and job displacement that this book was not revelatory to me personally, but there was some good information about the gladiatorial culture of Chinese tech entrepreneurs and what that means for the future of U.S.-China competition. I was also quite touched by the authors own segue into discussing his experience with cancer and how it shaped his thinking about human purpose and how we use our time. Some of the predictions laid out here about self-driving ...more
Nari Kannan
Frankly, I could not read beyond the first few chapters of this book. Dr. Kai Fu Lee lost all credibility with me when in the second chapter or so he says "Everything in AI Science that needs to be discovered has been discovered. Now it is up to the entrepreneurs to move it forward". I was so surprised that someone with a PhD in AI from Carnegie-Mellon would say something like this. Funny thing about AI is that you need to implement something hard in it like Natural Language Understanding or Mac ...more
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee is a book about the past, present and future of AI as forecast by the author, a true expert in the field. Unfortunately, AI Superpowers is shallow when it comes to the actual technical content of the book. Lee makes no attempt to provide deep insights into the specific technologies and methods that will unlock the next phase of AI that promises to disrupt major sectors of the world’s economy. Lee instead employs analogi ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic
Ehh, don't be deterred by my 2 star rating. This book is short and may still worth your time.

I will break down the book into roughly 4 sections: 1) AI & its beauty, 2) its ugliness 3) the author 4) the author's proposed solution.

For people unfamiliar with China, especially the modern China since 2010s, the first section is particularly valuable. I've been fascinated by the country for quite a few years already and have learned the majority of examples that Lee covers through my friends and throu
Jonathan Lu
Aug 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. I learned a lot about what a great man has done, but even more about who he is. His POV about the future of AI is spot on, and made me think about the structural advantage that China has:
- government structure means an ability to rapidly spur public investment in R&D without political backlash (rather embraced support by the lieutenants on the ground), which lends to an even higher appetite for risk than among VCs in Silicon Valley
- Size, with more internet users than US/EU co
With AI Superpowers, Lee has written a clear-eyed account of the business of AI that is highly digestible for the general reader. I found that the most valuable part of the book is its first half, which contrasts AI in the U.S. and China, and makes a convincing cultural argument for why Silicon Valley companies can't seem to make it in China. For example, Google wasn't popular as a search engine because it didn't optimize itself for the habits of Chinese users, who preferred to treat the search ...more
Nirav Savaliya

My opinion on this book swung wildly with each passing chapter. There are so many pros and cons of this book.


- Kai-Fu's got a great background; working his way up from an AI researcher in the valley to someone leading Google China and now as a VC in the Chinese tech sphere, he has seen it all.

- He paints a pretty good picture of the Chinese tech scene. I can totally see how the democratization of AI research can bring a sort of revolution in China like it did with the copy-cat

Lee Kaifu is a top AI researcher and he was a major player in technology startups, in Microsoft's speech recognition, and at Google's China office, and he is now widely-followed on Chinese social media.

For a short book, the argument is provocative, informative, and clear to follow. AI will transform modern business in the near future. Chinese businesses, often copying foreign businesses in the 1980s and 1990s, did so out of limited financial resources. Expansion in Chinese markets requi
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A super-important read if you want to get a quick overview into the AI race as it stands. "Eye-opening" is an understatement. In the latter part of the book, the author allows us to get more personal by talking about his battle with late-stage cancer and how it moulded his personal mission to make AI more humane. The only shortcoming I could find in this book was the lack of concrete steps to achieve his mission. Perhaps there are just no concrete steps and humans will just do as humans do. Good ...more
Mal Warwick
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Google "books about artificial intelligence," and you'll find a slew of them. Amazon lists 286. Computer scientists, journalists, science fiction authors, and other observers have written on the topic, sometimes insightfully, sometimes not. I've read nearly two dozen of these books. But AI Superpowers, the latest one to land on my Kindle, is by far the best. Author Kai-Fu Lee isn't just one of the most authoritative voices in the field. He's also unusually insightful. And he writes well (althoug ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. Really. The first 50 pages were interesting, new information about AI innovation in China and the US, but the rest of the book was just a diatribe by an ex-Google VP about how Silicon Valley doesn't understand China and Chinese consumers.

I found myself disagreeing with most of his central points -- that China's copycat years paved the way for innovation in China, that Chinese technology will come to dominate US culture (I can't think of a single Chinese tech i
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lee Kai-Fu is a venture capitalist and best selling author. He used to head Google China and is a lymphoma survivor. This book has 2 parts:

1. For AI to succeed, it needs persistent entrepreneurs, AI researchers, capital and lots of data. Lee posited that China’s apps involved the whole service chain, from the mobile phone, to the main goods/service provider to the delivery person. Silicon Valley prefers to code the clean part, that is, the app part but leaves other companies to do the ground wor
Bartosz Majewski
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business
Amazing Book. It reminds me of the excitement I've felt when I was reading the startup nation about the Israeli startup ecosystem around 2015. Even if you need to account for that the author has the motive to exaggerate a little and selectively select some facts to, and so jaw drops when some facts are quoted.

280 million people in China watched the GO game in which alpha go won. The value of mobile payments in China is greater than GDP, e-commerce sales up to 2x that in the US, in the peak of co
Rahul  Adusumilli
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rahul by: The Economist
May have already found my book of the year. The title doesn't do justice to the breadth of the book. In addition to contrasting the two innovative centres- yes, China is an innovative centre now-, it also works as a good history and introduction to the field of AI. It takes a radical turn towards spirituality near the end but you even forgive that out-of-the-blue detour for the sweetness of his hopes.

That turn is a lot like the Matrix trilogy's, when everything becomes about love and love becom
Jan 04, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has some major issues. Kai-Fu Lee might have a VC fund focused on Chinese companies, but that doesn't excuse the propaganda-like tone of the first third of this book. As much as he says he doesn't want to make AI development storyline a race between the US vs China, he makes an unwavering argument in all the ways China is ahead, despite plenty of evidence in my reading and reporting that suggests otherwise. Is the Chinese government paying him? Threatening him? That would make this who ...more
Alexander Rivas
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-books-read
This is the best book on the topic of AI I've read so far. I am kind of freaked out at how serious China is moving along to be the powerhouse of the world regarding AI technology. It was eye-opening to learn about the cultural difference between the entrepreneurial mindsets of Silicon Valley versus China. In my opinion, there are a lot of good arguments on why AI is inevitable and good for the future of humanity, but there are lots of issues that seem that'll affect the outsiders regarding AI te ...more
Nilesh Suthar
Oct 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand how China became the AI powered China as we know it today, I believe this book should be a great start. It begins with the event which initiated the AI movement in China. From there it talks about China's work culture, the competitive market, the corporate bloodshed, its different ideologies than silicon valley and towards the end he gave it a personal touch by sharing his cancer story and key learnings from it.
He discusses the threats of the upcoming AI age and how hum
Kent Winward
Jan 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most balanced books on AI that I have read that takes in a lot of cultural and economic views and combines them with the technology. I'm not a techno-optimist, but I'm also not a techno-pessimist, so this balanced approach played well for me. One thing about new technology is we often forget to look at where it might help. These are new tools and we are still learning how to use them.

Lee's critique of Universal Basic Income was actually quite good. Quite possibly a view that could on
Nov 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all Silicon Valley sociopaths and psychopaths
Typical Silicon Valley sociopath's journey from being part of the problem, to discovery that he is actually a human too, and on his path to redemption demonstrates that it is possible to apply ones incredible skills constructively to the problem. This should be required reading for all Silicon Valley sociopaths (otherwise known as oligarchs).

This book contains a great executive summary on the current state of the art of AI in both China and the US, and great for someone totally new. It might fil
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“In stark contrast, China’s startup culture is the yin to Silicon Valley’s yang: instead of being mission-driven, Chinese companies are first and foremost market-driven. Their ultimate goal is to make money, and they’re willing to create any product, adopt any model, or go into any business that will accomplish that objective. That mentality leads to incredible flexibility in business models and execution, a perfect distillation of the “lean startup” model often praised in Silicon Valley. It doesn’t matter where an idea came from or who came up with it. All that matters is whether you can execute it to make a financial profit. The core motivation for China’s market-driven entrepreneurs is not fame, glory, or changing the world. Those things are all nice side benefits, but the grand prize is getting rich, and it doesn’t matter how you get there.” 9 likes
“In deep learning, there’s no data like more data. The more examples of a given phenomenon a network is exposed to, the more accurately it can pick out patterns and identify things in the real world.” 9 likes
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