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The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today introduced its latest Science Report. The huge job — this year’s report stinks 762 pages, compiled by 70 authors from 52 nations over 18 months — has been printed every five years to examine current trends in science governance. This latest edition contains discussion of the rapid progress toward Industry 4.0 and, for the first time, a profound investigation of AI and robotics research around the world. Going beyond just the global leaders, it features a synopsis of nearly two dozen countries and international regions, analyzing AI research, funding, approaches, and much more. Overall, the report determines”it is the field of AI and robotics that dominated scientific output” in recent years.
“We take a look at the broad field of cross-cutting strategic technologies and break it down comprehensively into the 10 subfields. Artificial intelligence and robotics is one of those subfields, and it’s the biggest based on the number of publications,” report team deputy editor Tiffany Straza told VentureBeat. “Globally, there was kind of an easing off of interest around 2015, and then it spiked right back up. To me, it represents that this is a priority topic around the world.”
Indeed, the report, that aggregates data on spending, personnel, scientific books, and patents, reveals AI and robotics controlled scientific output from 2018 into 2019 in countries of all income levels. Almost 150,000 articles were published on these topics in 2019 alone, a 44% increase in 2015. For comparison, only 18,000 were printed on biotechnology in 2019.
The report also demonstrates that the increase in AI printing by high-income countries since 2015 has mechanically reduced the G20’s share of output. Lower middle-income countries total contributed 25.3percent of publications in the field in 2019, compared to only 12.8% in 2015. This clearly demonstrates that interest in AI is worldwide. Round the Earth, the researchers discovered that over 30 nations have adopted particular AI plans over the past five decades, including China, Russia, the United States, India, Mauritius, and Vietnam.
To learn more, we spoke with Straza about the accounts and what she learned about AI and robotics while working with it.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
VentureBeat: Industry 4.0 along with the digital transformation of factories with AI and robotics comes up often throughout the report. What is the condition of this currently?
Tiffany Straza):” I’m going to speak about India and the U.S. since they have really different approaches for this. In the U.S., there is this real big concern about manufacturing and”made in the USA” versus created in different nations. And there’s this fear that robotics will replace factory workers and eliminate jobs. By comparison, in India, the auto manufacturing sector has the largest representation of robotics, also there has been a massive uptick in their usage. And I think it’s fantastic because they see fewer injuries and factory accidents. Now you can’t only bring in the robots. It has to be accompanied by a transition in which you upskill employees. Therefore, again, the robots themselves aren’t the enemy. It is how people use them and how we as a government make choices to interact with the technologies. What service do we need to make that transition work for everyone? It’s not simply spending money on tech; it’s bringing the machine together.
VentureBeat: One intriguing finding is that global scientific cooperation is up, especially among high-income nations. The report didn’t break this down in terms of specific technologies — have you got a grasp on how much this applies to AI? Considering the competitiveness in the field, it’d be interesting to know.
Straza: I will let you know in general that crosscutting tactical tech has less overseas cooperation than a number of the other fields. The intensely collaborative fields are environmental sciences and geosciences, which makes a little bit of sense since they are relatively impartial. Whereas in crosscutting strategic technology and engineering, I think it’s significant to note this contains the subfield of tactical security and defense studies, so military research. So some of that might be because of security and not needing to share all of our cutting-edge things that could be used for defense. But also something that will be patented and used for financial gain. I believe there’s some pressure there to keep these research teams small and local.
VentureBeat: The analysis goes comprehensive about the United States’ dedicated strategies and funding uptick for AI. The U.S. federal government has prioritized strategic initiatives in AI since 2016, and in 2020, the White House’s budget request even included AI as a separate category. This year, the White House proposed an even more significant increase for non-defense AI, including a more than 70% increase over the previous year for the National Science Foundation (NSF). Congress even came together to propose a major bipartisan proposal to bolster U.S. technology leadership in AI, among other digital technologies. You also dive deep into the landscape in China and Russia, which are, of course, considered the other leading countries in the field. What’s similar and what’s different about these countries’ strategies to AI? How would you outline their attempts?
Straza: The U.S. is focusing on the growth of AI for occupations, and for good working conditions for AI professionals to be sure they’re paid well and stay in the country. Russia is focused on jobs and remuneration, or pay and working conditions for everybody working in the field of AI. This is an important topic for Russia generally since the nation’s technical scientist population is aging. Young individuals have been going to other areas, and there is also”brain drain,” meaning they are moving elsewhere in Europe or the planet. So Russia is creating some significant attempts in mathematics complete, and we see that reflected in AI. They’re also looking at educational programs and skills to get more of their public conscious and involved in AI.
China is focusing on growing and refining local expertise and innovation in AI, in addition to local production capacity for the technologies. By 2030, the nation aims to be”the world’s primary center for innovation in AI,” based on its New Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan. China is currently the world’s largest owner of AI patents.
Canada, also a pioneer, is hoping to take this position of AI for the world, and that it is not only something which’s going to be, you know, employed specifically for the army or something where the understanding is more private. They’re considering AI and data science for fabricating and infrastructur