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A U.S. Secret Weapon in A.I.: Chinese Talent

Fei-Fei Li, Sequoia Capital Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University.

Fei-Fei Li, a Chinese-born professor at Stanford University, helped drive a revolution in computer vision, the science of getting software to recognize objects.

Credit: ITU Pictures

When the Defense Department launched Project Maven, an effort to remake American military technology through artificial intelligence, it leaned on a team of about a dozen engineers working at Google. Many of them, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, were Chinese citizens.

The Pentagon was fine with that, they said, even amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing. Classified data was not involved, the Pentagon reasoned, and the American military needed the most qualified minds for the job.

The Trump administration is now moving to limit Chinese access to advanced American research, as relations between the United States and China reach their worst point in decades. That worries many of the companies and scientists in the heady realm of cutting-edge A.I., because much of the groundbreaking work coming out of the United States has been powered by Chinese brains.

A new study from MacroPolo — a think tank run by the Paulson Institute, which promotes constructive ties between the United States and China — estimated that Chinese-educated researchers comprised nearly one-third of the authors of the papers accepted and promoted at a prestigious A.I. conference last year, more than from any other country. But it also found that most of them lived in the United States and worked for American companies and universities.


From The New York Times
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