12 min read

Abundance Insider: August 9th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 9, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Samsung's 'smart' contact lenses, gamified tree-planting, and this week's virtual conference experiment.

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and home in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital, a Singularity University Program, includes 100+ hours of coursework and video archives for entrepreneurs like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

One chip to rule them all: It natively runs all types of AI software

What it is: A team of researchers primarily based in Beijing has developed a hybrid chip that can natively run all types of AI software. Dubbed Tianjic, the chip has been engineered to combine two distinct architectural approaches to AI (machine learning and artificial neural networks), which each require fundamentally different coding schemes. In effect, Tianjic’s processing units can shift between spiking communications and binary, allowing it to perform a broad range of calculations. To demonstrate Tianjic’s versatility, the team even built an autonomous Tianjic-operated bicycle, which could successfully detect and avoid obstacles, maintain balance, perform voice command recognition, make navigation decisions under varying road conditions, and run conventional software to boot.

Why it’s important: While sometimes conflated under the umbrella term AI, machine learning and artificial neural networks have developed along different branches and enable distinct types of calculations. For this reason, today’s field is considered one of Artificial Narrow Intelligence, as most contemporary AIs are “super-intelligent” within the constraints of highly specialized problems, like pattern recognition or strategy games. However, by combining distinct AI architectures in a single chip, Tianjic and its future successors might be the vanguards of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), birthing multi-skilled machines geared to tackle any computation problem, motor skill, or pattern analysis. | Share on Facebook.
 

How Alipay Users Planted 100M Trees In China

What it is: Alibaba’s Alipay (one of China’s two dominant mobile payment platforms) has enabled users to plant 100 million trees to date via its “Ant Forest” mini-program. Since the program’s launch in 2016, over 500 million Alipay users have joined, earning “green energy” points in exchange for eco-friendly decisions, such as walking to work, using Dingtalk to hold video conferences (instead of commuting to meetings), or recycling old possessions on Alibaba’s secondhand marketplace Idle Fish. Trackable through leaderboards, these green energy points can then be used to plant trees in China’s most arid regions. So far, Alipay’s partner NGOs have revegetated 933 square kilometers of land — the rough equivalent of 130,000 soccer fields. Alipay even allows users to track satellite images of their trees in real-time and collaborate with friends.

Why it’s important: Announced in 1978, China’s “Green Great Wall” project aims to plant 400 million hectares of new forests (spanning 42 percent of China’s landmass) by 2050. Alipay’s ‘crowd’-planted trees not only comprise a growing carbon sink, offsetting China’s high emissions, but also aid in building this 4,500-kilometer ecological barrier to combat land degradation. Over the past 20 years, China and India have contributed one-third of the planet’s increased foliage, and crowd-leveraging programs like Ant Forest are fast reducing the barrier to participation. By gamifying “green” behavior and offering real-world prizes, mobile platforms hold an extraordinary power to incentivize sustainable decision-making, reshape communal mindsets, and catalyze climate solutions. | Share on Facebook.

This Week’s Virtual Conference In VirBELA

What it is: Early this week, Peter Diamandis and the Abundance Digital team partnered with virtual coworking company VirBELA to run an immersive, virtual conference experiment. Uniting over 100 participants from around the world, the summit featured embodied avatar speakers (including a keynote by Peter and exclusive XPRIZE updates), an interactive auditorium, and social recreational activities — from boat tours to seaside group conversations. Iterating on its software for next-generation remote collaboration, VirBELA strives to dematerialize and democratize the traditional office, allowing anyone to engage in team projects regardless of geography. Currently, VirBELA’s software is home to eXp Realty, a $620 million+ real estate company with over 20,000 agents and zero staffed, physical offices.

Why it’s important: The future of work — and social interaction, for that matter — will soon make physical distance immaterial. As virtual reality hardware and low latency rendering improve dramatically in the coming years, digital and delocalized work environments will begin to decimate travel costs, company carbon footprints, and wasted time. Validated this week, people can increasingly experience all the benefits of conventional conferences from the convenience of a living room, at zero cost. Perhaps even more exciting, platforms like VirBELA are vastly enhancing the accessibility of today’s brightest minds, industry leaders, and cutting edge content. 

Researchers Say This AI Can Spot Unsafe Food On Amazon Faster Than The FDA

What it is: Researchers at Boston University School of Public Health have successfully trained an AI to spot unsafe food items potentially in need of recall. Aggregating nearly 1.3 million Amazon food product reviews, the team’s neural network found matches between a subset of these products and prior U.S. FDA-recalled items. The researchers’ deep learning AI, a Bidirectional Encoder Representation from Transformations (dubbed BERT), was then taught to identify language in online reviews that could confirm a food’s safety status and aid in risk stratification. Using crowd-sorted reviews, BERT AI consequently distinguished which food products had been officially FDA-recalled with 74 percent accuracy, and even managed to predict a similar fate for 20,000 additional products, now candidates for recall.

Why it’s important: Predicting and mitigating risk before losses are incurred is one of the most profitable business opportunities of the next decade. Leveraging e-commerce data, BERT’s ability to scour massive databases and classify products by risk serves as a prime example, unlocking countless implications. Regulatory processes (think: FDA recalls) can now become much more efficient as products are instantaneously flagged, bypassing a recall’s costly research phase. Within supply chain monitoring, AIs might continuously analyze real-time employee and user feedback to identify supply chain bottlenecks and inefficiencies. For end consumers, future iterations of BERT could even crowdsource decisions for quality control and assurance, as well as concise supplier feedback. Knowing your customer and listening to the data will never have been easier. | Share on Facebook.

Samsung's Patented ‘Smart’ Contact Lenses

What it is: Samsung has just been granted a U.S. patent to develop smart contact lenses capable of streaming text, capturing videos, and even beaming images directly into a wearer’s eyes. Given their multi-layered lens architecture, the contacts are designed to include a motion sensor (for eye movement tracking), hidden camera, and display unit. Current lens designs would even theoretically allow users to control their devices remotely, possibly administering commands by blinking or navigating a user interface with eye movements alone.

Why it’s important: While still immersed in the R&D phase, smart contact lenses are projected to comprise a $7.2 billion market by 2023. Perhaps one of the most promising candidates for a future of ubiquitous augmented reality, smart lenses are also increasingly feasible thanks to advances in sensor technology. Riding implications of Moore’s Law, smart sensors (and what some have dubbed “smart dust”) have shrunk dramatically in size, and could one day record and transmit everything from lens-wearers’ audiovisual experiences to auto-populated contextual information. Keep an eye out (no pun intended) for Google’s response as it works on its own smart lens revamp of the Google Glass. | Share on Facebook.

Tokyo Offers $1 Billion Research Grant For Human Augmentation, Cyborg Tech

What it is: The Japanese government has just set aside roughly 100 billion yen (or $921 million) to fund projects spanning cyborg technologies, industrial waste solutions, and augmentation for aging individuals. Planning to fund teams for the first 5 years of a 10-year support agreement, Tokyo will soon invite researchers and academics (both domestic and international) to submit proposals in 25 key problem areas. One source reports that portions of the research grant will be channeled towards "cyborg technology that can replace human bodily functions using robotics or living organisms by 2050." In light of a declining birth rate and a shrinking workforce to follow, Japan might rely heavily on such solutions to bolster economic productivity.

Why it’s important: Similar to the U.S. government's $2.5 billion+ SBIR/STTR grant and seed funding program, Japan’s government is issuing a powerful clarion call to private industry and academics: an invitation to not only tackle some of the nation’s most pressing challenges, but to invest in long-term, experimental technologies set for commercialization between 2025 and 2060. As OECD nations begin to witness a dwindling birth rate, resulting labor shortages will require converging advancements in AI, robotics, and additional human augmentation technologies. Whether in pursuit of longevity extension or cyborg construction, Japan’s initiative might soon birth solutions that allow us to work longer or replace certain human labor altogether. | Share on Facebook.

What is Abundance Insider?

This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by my team of entrepreneurs and technology scouts, including contributions from standout technology experts and innovators.

Want more conversations like this?

At Abundance 360, a Singularity University program, we teach the metatrends, implications and unfair advantages for entrepreneurs enabled by breakthroughs like those featured above. We're looking for CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to change the world. The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here

Abundance Digital, a Singularity University program, is an online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated newsfeed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Know someone who would benefit from getting Abundance Insider? Send them to this link to sign up.

Topics: Abundance Insider Future of Work AR/VR AI food Artificial Intellegence virtual reality environment capital Augmented Reality China computation future of food
10 min read

Exponential China - Something You Can't Ignore

By Peter H. Diamandis on Jun 9, 2019

The rise of China as an epicenter of rapid-fire innovation and technological disruption is more important than ever before in transforming each and every one of our businesses.

Topics: Abundance Entrepreneurship Transportation AI Abundance 360 innovators a360 Artificial Intellegence Alibaba autonomous vehicles China Baidu Tencent smart cities makerspaces maker movement entrepreneur cities megacities Xiong'an New Area unicorns electric vehicles solar power cars ridesharing future of cities Shenzhen Hong Kong Guangzhou David Li SZOIL Sinovation Ventures Abundance Platinum China Greater Bay Area SenseTime Kai-Fu Lee
14 min read

Abundance Insider: April 19th, 2019

By Peter H. Diamandis on Apr 19, 2019

In this week's Abundance Insider: Dedicated self-driving car lanes, 3D printed tiny hearts, and Sweden's electric car-charging roads.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Nora, Claire and Max

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and hone in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital includes 100+ hours of course work and video archives for entrepreneurs, like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Israeli Scientists 3D-Print A Tiny, Live Heart Made With Human Tissue

What it is: For the first time, an Israeli team led by Professor Tal Dvir successfully 3D-printed a tiny, but beating, heart entirely from human cells. The heart is complete with muscles, blood vessels, ventricles and chambers. The cells used to print the heart came from a donor’s fat tissue, changed into embryonic stem cells, and finally differentiated into the various types of heart tissue used in the printing process. The differentiated cells were loaded into a bioprinter, which took 3 to 4 hours to print the small heart. After several days of incubation with oxygen and other nutrients, the cells in the heart began to beat spontaneously. Future advancements and research could lead to 3D-printing a full-sized heart appropriate for humans.

Why it's important: Using a patient’s own cells to make a heart may resolve the immune-rejection issues that currently cause nearly 40 percent of heart transplants to fail. Organ shortages disappear when we have the ability to 3D-print organs. As self-driving cars, Internet of Things and AI technologies help us live longer, safer, and healthier lives, we'll have fewer donors from car accidents, meaning fewer donated organs to the hundreds of thousands of people on transplantation waiting lists. If we can precision-print organs, will we one day be able to reengineer these evolution-driven devices to be more efficient? Imagine 3D-printed lungs optimized for air intake, or hearts designed to be resistant to heart attacks.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Max Goldberg / Written by Max Goldberg 

China’s Rolling Out Dedicated Highway Lanes For Self-Driving Cars

What it is: According to KPMG, China is currently ranked 20th in the world on its Autonomous Vehicle Readiness Index. To step up its game, the country is developing new road infrastructure with dedicated autonomous lanes. Slated to begin operation in 2020, the first stretch will be a 100 km road connecting Beijing with the Xiongan New Area in Hebei province. The road will embed sensors and electronic tolls that aid in the development of autonomous technology and facilitate easy payment for cab-hailing companies that begin to rely on driverless vehicles.

Why it's important: The idea of dedicated autonomous road infrastructure has been floated in U.S. near Foxconn’s new plant in Wisconsin and in Seattle, without action. Dedicated lanes may not be necessary for true autonomy development, but they would help avoid accidents in the short term, and likely accelerate the expansion of a new vehicles and services provider to the market. If successful, this experiment will provide real-world data for city planners who replicate this idea elsewhere.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Claire Adair / Written by Jason Goodwin 

A Prominent Publisher Used Machine Learning To Write A Textbook

What it is: Scientific journal publisher Springer Nature just released the first machine generated textbook by a scholarly publisher. Developed by the Applied Computational Linguistics (ACoLi) lab at Goethe University in Frankfurt, “Lithium-Ion Batteries: A Machine-Generated Summary of Current Research” is an attempt to distill insights from the vast amount of research in the area. According to Springer, over 53,000 papers on Lithium Ion batteries have been published in just the last three years. While there is an element of human quality control in the training phase, the algorithm condenses and organizes the preapproved, peer-reviewed publications into coherent chapters and sections, giving researchers just 180 pages to review and consider versus 100,000+.

Why it's important: Exponential technologies are converging, their fundamental research is accelerating, and we’re bringing another 4 billion people online in the next few years. Developing tools to remain abreast of research across a wide set of topics is more critical than ever. How can you use this and other machine learning algorithms to spot or spark new ideas?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Max Goldberg / Written by Jason Goodwin 

Device Tests Thousands Of Stem Cells Super Fast

What it is: UChicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering has just developed a “lab-on-a-chip” (LOC) that can study thousands of live stem cells, understanding how each reacts to different molecules and environments. For years, credit card-sized microfluidic devices — composed of tiny chambers, channels and valves — have been used to study reactions in numerous cells. However, while predecessors sported limited chambers and failed to keep cells alive for long-term experimentation, this team’s new microfluidic device has achieved a 15-fold increase (from 100 to 1,500) in the number of automated chambers over existing counterparts, allowing the LOC to perform experiments that would take more than 1 million steps in a traditional lab.

Why it's important: While the tool itself is impressive, its newly enabled experiments have already yielded consequential insights. The researchers even gleaned new rules that determine timing and signaling sequences necessary for stem cell differentiation or renewal, all by examining neural stem cells on the device and analyzing resulting data. With dramatic implications for our understanding of brain development and corresponding treatments, this finding demonstrates just how quickly LOC technology could accelerate stem cell research, unlocking high-throughput experimentation at a fraction of the cost. Yet advanced microfluidic devices are doing more than dematerializing and demonetizing stem cell research; they are now on the cusp of eliminating time, perhaps one of the most stubborn barriers of all.  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

Researchers Use Drones To Detect Potholes, Cracks, And Other Road Damage

What it is: A pre-print research paper published to Arxiv.org describes an AI-enabled quadcopter that performs road inspections. The AI system is trained to detect cracks and potholes on city roads. Engineers mounted a stereo camera (a camera with multiple lenses) on a DJI Matrice 100 drone to capture images of the road. These images were then fed through an AI system trained to compare the 3-dimensional depth of real-time images to baseline reference images. The difference between the anticipated baseline and real-time images are plotted on so called ‘disparity’ maps. As seen in the GIF to the left, these systems output a reconstructed surface of the road, and identifies areas of the road that need to be repaired.

Why it's important: Drones are just exiting the Deceptive phase of Peter’s 6 D's and entering into the Disruptive phase, with transformative implications. As this story shows, a skyful of drones complemented by thousands of micro imaging satellites will provide real-time analysis of all aspects of our world, from pothole inspection to city traffic analysis to weather patterns and wildfire detection. How will you and your company leverage the abundance of imaging data that drones and microsatellites are making accessible right now?  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Max Goldberg 

Sweden Is Building A Road That Recharges Electric Buses That Drive On It

What it is: Reimagining electric vehicle (EV) charging from the ground up (literally), the Swedish transport administration is now experimenting with electric dynamic charging roads. In a $12.5 million showcasing project, the Smart Road Gotland consortium will pilot a 1-mile stretch of e-road between Sweden’s Gotland Island airport and the town of Visby, capable of charging electric trucks and buses as they run over it. Funded primarily by the Swedish government, the project will leverage a Dynamic Wireless Electrification System developed by Israeli company Electreon, a driving lane-embedded infrastructure that powers vehicle batteries wirelessly.

Why it's important: With the goal of building out 2,000km of additional electric dynamic charging roads, Sweden aims to transform one of the nation’s arterial highways into a heavy transport e-road. In success, Electreon’s and others’ commercialized e-road technology could soon pave the way for not only always-charging vehicles, but electric public transport and even low-emissions long-haul trucking. As noted by Electreon VP of business development Noam Ilan, “[this] is the first time ever that a heavy truck will charge wirelessly from the road.” A burgeoning market with unparalleled potential, electric roads may one day leave no transit industry vertical untouched, and no vehicle uncharged...  Share on Facebook

Spotted by Marissa Brassfield / Written by Claire Adair 

What is Abundance Insider?

This email is a briefing of the week's most compelling, abundance-enabling tech developments, curated by Marissa Brassfield in preparation for Abundance 360. Read more about A360 below.

Want more conversations like this?

At Abundance 360, Peter's 360-person executive mastermind, we teach the metatrends, implications and unfair advantages for entrepreneurs enabled by breakthroughs like those featured above. We're looking for CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to change the world. The program is highly selective. If you'd like to be considered, apply here

Abundance Digital is Peter’s online educational portal and community of abundance-minded entrepreneurs. You’ll find weekly video updates from Peter, a curated newsfeed of exponential news, and a place to share your bold ideas. Click here to learn more and sign up.

Know someone who would benefit from getting Abundance Insider? Send them to this link to sign up.

Topics: Abundance Insider Sensors health Artificial Intellegence healthcare Drones trillion sensor economy self-driving cars China Stem Cells electric vehicles israel
11 min read

Future of Cities Part 2: Visions of the Future

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 10, 2019

Tomorrow’s cities are reshaping almost every industry imaginable, and birthing those we’ve never heard of.

Topics: Energy Abundance Materials Science Data AI Real Estate Artificial Intellegence Autonomous Drones IoT materials connectivity solar energy trillion sensor economy autonomous vehicles China smart cities internet of things Spatial Web construction mobile devices cities infrastructure urbanization Estonia megacities microcities Dubai Xiong'an New Area traffic flying cars
9 min read

Future of Smart Cities - Part 1

By Peter H. Diamandis on Mar 3, 2019

Each week alone, an estimated 1.3 million people move into cities, driving urbanization on an unstoppable scale. 

Topics: Energy Abundance Materials Science Data AI Real Estate Artificial Intellegence IoT materials connectivity solar energy trillion sensor economy China smart cities internet of things Spatial Web construction mobile devices cities infrastructure urbanization Estonia megacities microcities Dubai Xiong'an New Area traffic
12 min read

Abundance Insider: November 15th, 2018

By Peter H. Diamandis on Nov 16, 2018

In this week's Abundance Insider: AI news anchors, urine-based bio-bricks, and crowdsourced AI ethics.

Cheers,
Peter, Marissa, Kelley, Greg, Bri, Jarom, Joseph, Derek, Jason, Claire and Max

P.S. Send any tips to our team by clicking here, and send your friends and family to this link to subscribe to Abundance Insider.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about exponential technologies and hone in on your MTP/ Moonshot? Abundance Digital includes 100+ hours of course work and video archives for entrepreneurs, like you. Keep up to date on exponential news and get feedback on your boldest ideas from an experienced, supportive community. Click here to learn more and sign up.

P.P.P.S. This week we feature the work of four of Peter's Strike Force Fellows. The Strike Force Fellowship Program aims to connect & empower young entrepreneurs to find their MTP, take moonshots and leverage exponential technologies as they start their careers. To learn more about the program, and to meet the Fellows, visit this page.

Topics: Abundance Insider Space Energy Artificial Intellegence materials solar energy China biotech
10 min read

AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee

By Peter H. Diamandis on Sep 2, 2018

Recently, I picked up Kai-Fu Lee’s newest book, AI Superpowers.

Kai-Fu Lee is one of the most plugged-in AI investors on the planet, heading management of over $2 billion AUM between six funds, and over 300 portfolio companies in the U.S. and China. 

Drawing from his pioneering work in AI, executive leadership at Microsoft, Apple and Google (where he served as founding president of Google China), and his founding of VC fund Sinovation Ventures, Lee shares invaluable insights about:

  1. The four factors driving today’s AI ecosystems;
  2. China’s extraordinary inroads in AI implementation;
  3. Where autonomous systems are headed;
  4. How we’ll need to adapt.

With a foothold in both Beijing and Silicon Valley, Lee looks at the power balance between Chinese and U.S. tech behemoths — each turbocharging new applications of deep learning and sweeping up global markets in the process.

In this blog, I'll be discussing Lee’s ‘Four Waves of AI,’ an excellent framework for discussing where AI is today and where it’s going. I’ll also be featuring some of the hottest Chinese tech companies leading the charge, worth watching right now.

I'm super excited that this Tuesday, I've scored the opportunity to sit down with Kai-Fu Lee to discuss his book in detail via a webinar.  

With Sino-U.S. competition heating up, who will own the future of technology?

Register here for the free webinar on September 4th, 2018 from 11:00am - 12:30pm PST.

Let’s dive in.

The First Wave: Internet AI

In this first stage of AI deployment, we’re dealing primarily with recommendation engines — algorithmic systems that learn from masses of user data to curate online content personalized to each one of us.

Think Amazon’s spot-on product recommendations, or that “Up Next” YouTube video you just have to watch before getting back to work, or Facebook ads that seem to know what you’ll buy before you do.

Powered by the data flowing through our networks, Internet AI leverages the fact that users automatically label data as we browse. Clicking vs. not clicking; lingering on a webpage longer than we did on another; hovering over a Facebook video to see what happens at the end.

These cascades of labeled data build a detailed picture of our personalities, habits, demands and desires: the perfect recipe for more tailored content to keep us on a given platform.

Currently, Lee estimates that Chinese and American companies stand head-to-head when it comes to deployment of Internet AI. But given China’s data advantage, he predicts that Chinese tech giants will have a slight lead (60-40) over their U.S. counterparts in the next five years.

While you’ve most definitely heard of Alibaba and Baidu, you’ve probably never stumbled upon Toutiao.

Starting out as a ‘copycat’ of America’s wildly popular Buzzfeed, Toutiao reached a valuation of $20 billion by 2017, dwarfing Buzzfeed’s valuation by more than a factor of 10. But with almost 80 million daily active users, Toutiao doesn’t just stop at creating viral content.

Equipped with natural-language processing and computer vision, Toutiao’s AI engines survey a vast network of different sites and contributors, rewriting headlines to optimize for user engagement, and processing each user’s online behavior — clicks, comments, engagement time — to curate individualized news feeds for millions of consumers.

And as users grow more engaged with Toutiao’s content, the company’s algorithms get better and better at recommending content, optimizing headlines, and delivering a truly personalized feed.

It’s this kind of positive feedback loop that fuels today’s AI giants surfing the wave of Internet AI.

The Second Wave: Business AI

While Internet AI takes advantage of the fact that netizens are constantly labeling data via clicks and other engagement metrics, business AI jumps on the data that traditional companies have already labeled in the past.

Think: banks issuing loans and recording repayment rates; hospitals archiving diagnoses, imaging data and subsequent health outcomes; or courts noting conviction history, recidivism and flight.

While we humans make predictions based on obvious root causes (strong features), AI algorithms can process thousands of weakly correlated variables (weak features) that may have much more to do with a given outcome than the usual suspects.

By scouting out hidden correlations that escape our linear cause-and-effect logic, Business AI leverages labeled data to train algorithms that outperform even the most veteran of experts.

Apply these data-trained AI engines to banking, insurance and legal sentencing, and you get minimized default rates, optimized premiums, and plummeting recidivism rates.

While Lee confidently places America in the lead (90-10) for Business AI, China’s substantial lag in structured industry data could actually work in its favor going forward.

In industries where Chinese startups can leapfrog over legacy systems, China has a major advantage.

Take Chinese app Smart Finance, for instance.

While Americans embraced credit and debit cards in the 1970s, China was still in the throes of its Cultural Revolution, largely missing the bus on this cutting-edge technology.

Fast forward to 2017, and China’s mobile payment spending outnumbered that of Americans’ by a ratio of 50 to 1. Without the competition of deeply entrenched credit cards, mobile payments were an obvious upgrade to China’s cash-heavy economy, embraced by 70 percent of China’s 753 million smartphone users by the end of 2017.

But by leapfrogging over credit cards and into mobile payments, China largely left behind the notion of credit.

And here’s where Smart Finance comes in.

An AI-powered app for micro-finance, Smart Finance depends almost exclusively on its algorithms to make millions of micro loans. For each potential borrower, the app simply requests access to a portion of the user’s phone data.

On the basis of variables as subtle as your typing speed and battery percentage, Smart Finance can predict with astounding accuracy your likelihood of repaying a $300 loan.

Such deployments of Business AI and Internet AI are already revolutionizing our industries and individual lifestyles. But still on the horizon lie two even more monumental waves — perception AI and autonomous AI.

The Third Wave: Perception AI

In this wave, AI gets an upgrade with eyes, ears and myriad other senses, merging the digital world with our physical environments.

As sensors and smart devices proliferate through our homes and cities, we are on the verge of entering a trillion-sensor economy.

Companies like China’s Xiaomi are putting out millions of IoT-connected devices, and teams of researchers have already begun prototyping smart dust — solar cell- and sensor-geared particulates that can store and communicate troves of data anywhere, anytime.

As Kai-Fu explains, Perception AI “will bring the convenience and abundance of the online world into our offline reality.” Sensor-enabled hardware devices will turn everything from hospitals to cars to schools into online-merge-offline (OMO) environments.

Imagine walking into a grocery store, scanning your face to pull up your most common purchases, and then picking up a virtual assistant (VA) shopping cart. Having pre-loaded your data, the cart adjusts your usual grocery list with voice input, reminds you to get your spouse’s favorite wine for an upcoming anniversary, and guides you through a personalized store route.

While we haven’t yet leveraged the full potential of perception AI, China and the U.S. are already making incredible strides. Given China’s hardware advantage, Lee predicts China currently has a 60-40 edge over its American tech counterparts.

Now the go-to city for startups building robots, drones, wearable technology, and IoT infrastructure, Shenzhen has turned into a powerhouse for intelligent hardware, as I discussed last week. Turbocharging output of sensors and electronic parts via thousands of factories, Shenzhen’s skilled engineers can prototype and iterate new products at unprecedented scale and speed.

With the added fuel of Chinese government support and a relaxed Chinese attitude toward data privacy, China’s lead may even reach 80-20 in the next five years.

Jumping on this wave are companies like Xiaomi, which aims to turn bathrooms, kitchens, and living rooms into smart OMO environments. Having invested in 220 companies and incubated 29 startups that produce its products, Xiaomi surpassed 85 million intelligent home devices by the end of 2017, making it the world’s largest network of these connected products.

One KFC restaurant in China has even teamed up with Alipay (Alibaba’s mobile payments platform) to pioneer a ‘pay-with-your-face’ feature. Forget cash, cards and cell phones, and let OMO do the work.

The Fourth Wave: Autonomous AI

But the most monumental — and unpredictable — wave is the fourth and final: autonomous AI.

Integrating all previous waves, autonomous AI gives machines the ability to sense and respond to the world around them, enabling AI to move and act productively.

While today’s machines can outperform us on repetitive tasks in structured and even unstructured environments (think Boston Dynamics’ humanoid Atlas or oncoming autonomous vehicles), machines with the power to see, hear, touch and optimize data will be a whole new ballgame.

Think: swarms of drones that can selectively spray and harvest entire farms with computer vision and remarkable dexterity, heat-resistant drones that can put out forest fires 100X more efficiently, or Level 5 autonomous vehicles that navigate smart roads and traffic systems all on their own.

While autonomous AI will first involve robots that create direct economic value — automating tasks on a one-to-one replacement basis — these intelligent machines will ultimately revamp entire industries from the ground-up.

Kai-Fu Lee currently puts America in a commanding lead of 90-10 in autonomous AI, especially when it comes to self-driving vehicles. But Chinese government efforts are quickly ramping up the competition.

Already in China’s Zhejiang province, highway regulators and government officials have plans to build China’s first intelligent superhighway, outfitted with sensors, road-embedded solar panels and wireless communication between cars, roads and drivers.

Aimed at increasing transit efficiency by up to 30 percent while minimizing fatalities, the project may one day allow autonomous electric vehicles to continuously charge as they drive.

A similar government-fueled project involves Beijing’s new neighbor Xiong’an. Projected to take in over $580 billion in infrastructure spending over the next 20 years, Xiong’an New Area could one day become the world’s first city built around autonomous vehicles.

Baidu is already working with Xiong’an’s local government to build out this AI City with an environmental focus. Possibilities include sensor-geared cement, computer vision-enabled traffic lights, intersections with facial recognition and parking lots-turned parks.

Lastly, Lee predicts China will almost certainly lead the charge in autonomous drones. Already, Shenzhen is home to premier drone maker DJI — a company I’ll be visiting with 24 top executives later this month as part of my annual China Platinum Trip.

Named “the best company I have ever encountered” by Chris Anderson, DJI owns an estimated 50 percent of the North American drone market, supercharged by Shenzhen’s extraordinary maker movement.

While the long-term Sino-U.S. competitive balance in fourth wave AI remains to be seen, one thing is certain: in a matter of decades, we will witness the rise of AI-embedded cityscapes and autonomous machines that can interact with the real world and help solve today’s most pressing grand challenges.

Join Me in China

(1) Webinar with Dr. Kai-Fu Lee: Dr. Kai-Fu Lee — one of the world’s most respected experts on AI — and I will discuss his latest book AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order. Artificial Intelligence is reshaping the world as we know it. With U.S.-Sino competition heating up, who will own the future of technology? Register here for the free webinar on September 4th, 2018 from 11:00am - 12:30pm PST.

(2) Abundance Global - China: This year, I’m expanding A360 into three key emerging global markets: Central/South America (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil); MENA (Dubai, UAE); and Asia (Shanghai, China). Following my annual China Platinum Trip, A360 Shanghai will dive into China’s remarkable strides in AI and other newly emerging industries.

Topics: Entrepreneurship AI Artificial Intellegence venture capital China Platinum Trip Beijing
9 min read

Shenzhen: Hardware Capital of the World

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 26, 2018

Less than 40 years ago, Shenzhen was a fishing village of 30,000 people.

Topics: Entrepreneurship AI China Tencent industry makerspaces electronics intelligent hardware Huaqiangbei Electronics World hardware maker movement
9 min read

China Spotlight: Next AI Superpower?

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 19, 2018

Last year, China’s government put out its plan to lead the world in AI by 2030.

Topics: Data Entrepreneurship AI Artificial Intellegence Alibaba autonomous vehicles China Baidu WeChat Tencent smart cities industry
8 min read

China's BAT: Baidu, Alibaba & Tencent

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 12, 2018

Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent (BAT) are now valued at a combined $1 trillion USD.

Topics: Data AI Artificial Intellegence healthcare mobile health Alibaba autonomous vehicles China Baidu WeChat voice assistants Tencent smart cities
7 min read

Chinese Venture Capital Abroad

By Peter H. Diamandis on Aug 5, 2018

Over the course of the next month, I will be releasing a series of China-centered blogs, leading up to my webinar with Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, one of the most plugged-in AI investors on the planet and of the technology’s earliest pioneers.

Topics: Robotics Artificial Intellegence venture capital autonomous vehicles China biotech