China appears to be pulling another U-turn, saying it’ll promote the use of AI in daily life just days after reports it blocked ChatGPT

  • China said it sees broad potential in the use of AI tech and wants to integrate it into daily life.
  • China’s local tech firms are now rushing to develop their own AI chatbots.
  • But that’s amid reports China — which controls information tightly — blocked access to ChatGPT.

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China appears to have had a change of heart about artificial intelligence.

It now wants to integrate the tech into daily life, just days after reports emerged that it had blocked its citizens from accessing viral AI chatbot ChatGPT. 

On Friday, officials from China’s science and technology ministry said their government attaches “great importance” to the development of artificial intelligence, and will be promoting its integration into the economy and society.

Such technology “has wide application potential in many industries,” Chen Jiachang, the director of the high-tech department at China’s science and technology ministry, said at a press briefing on Friday, according to a report by media outlet National Business Daily.

The minister acknowledged at the Friday press briefing that ChatGPT is “really hot” currently, but warned all technological advancements come with both advantages and disadvantages — which Beijing will seek to “adopt some corresponding measures” against in terms of ethics.

Chen’s comments come amid reports that it has blocked access to ChatGPT, prompting speculation over whether China’s regulators are cracking down on the AI chatbot, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday.

ChatGPT is geo-locked and unavailable to users in China. However, the bot has attracted massive interest in the country where users are using workarounds such as virtual private networks to access ChatGPT. 

Chinese tech titans want to launch their own AI chatbots

The Chinese official’s comment comes after the country’s tech titans Alibaba and Baidu announced plans to develop their own AI chatbots.

Search engine giant Baidu — China’s answer to Google — said on Wednesday it plans to launch its own AI chatbot Ernie Bot in March. Baidu CEO Robin Li said in an internal memo seen by Insider that Ernie Bot will be integrated into all of Baidu’s operations including its search and cloud services, as well as its smart car operation system.

“AI technology has reached a tipping point and all industries will inevitably go through transformation,” Li said in the memo.

OpenAI and Alibaba did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comments. 

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