Baidu boss urges caution over GenAI development

The boss of Chinese tech giant Baidu has cautioned that the country’s heavy investment in artificial intelligence could lead to wasted resources.

Speaking at an industry forum in Shenzen, Baidu co-founder and chief executive officer Robin Li said that companies in China should focus their efforts on developing practical applications instead of spending so much time and money on developing their own large language models (LLMs).

Since the launch of OpenAI’s trend-setting ChatGPT, China now has at least 130 LLMs, representing 40 per cent of the global total including Baidu’s own Ernie 4.0 which has drawn mixed reactions from the industry. Chinese AI firms have to adhere to security requirements published in October, which includes a blacklist of sources that cannot be used to train models.

"I've observed a phenomenon (in China) where many industries, companies and even cities are purchasing hardware, stocking chips, (and) building computing centres to train proprietary large models from scratch," Li said.

"A large language model itself is a basic foundation akin to an operating system, but ultimately developers need to rely on a limited number of large models to develop various native applications. Therefore, constantly redeveloping foundational large models represents an enormous waste of social resources.”

Li surmised that while there are many LLMs in China, AI applications developed based on these models are still very few. By contrast, developers in the US and other Western markets are increasingly integrating LLMs like ChatGPT 4.0 and others to develop applications with niche, sector-specific purposes.

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