This month, Sam speaks with researcher, consultant, and former Yenching Scholar Danit Gal about the relationship between national culture and AI governance in China. She describes her current work on characterizing the Chinese approach to AI ethics. Danit also touches on her theory about the tool-partner spectrum of AI technologies, ranging from Google maps to Japan’s virtual wife. China, she argues, is in the middle of the spectrum; the government is skeptical of true partnerships, while, for example, Buddhist monks are embracing AI use in monasteries.
Danit synthesizes the various theoretical frameworks towards AI from the perspective of South Korea, Japan, and China, and sheds light on the disparate perspectives on this issue on the part of various Chinese experts and researchers. Danit also talks about her Yenching Academy thesis, which explored the challenges of incorporating AI in a Chinese nursing home.
She also talks about the danger of anthropomorphizing AI, specifically as it applies to portrayals of deferent female AI characters. She describes and opposes the sexist push towards subservient “female” AI: “If we can’t make human women obedient, then we shall make a robot copy of them that will be obedient.”
Danit recommends this video as an introduction to China’s incorporation of AI into nursing homes. Additionally, as there are limited resources on China and AI, she suggests people get out there and learn the full scope of what AI actually does, and form an opinion from there.
“It’s easy to overlook what AI is actually used for. We focus on surveillance and things that infringe on human dignity, but there is a much deeper story to this and I would encourage them to understand what technology does for society, especially for such a huge and complicated society like China.”
Danit Gal is a consultant and researcher working on technology ethics, geopolitics, governance, safety, and security. Previously, she was Project Assistant Professor at the Cyber Civilizations Research Center at the Keio University Global Research Institute in Tokyo, Japan. Danit advises universities, companies, and regulatory bodies on global technological landscapes and the social, economic, and political implications of emerging technologies.
The YCW Podcast is a monthly podcast series by Young China Watchers. We’re a global community of young professionals, providing a platform to discuss the most pressing issues emerging from China today. We organize events with China experts in our 10 chapters across Asia, Europe and the U.S., fostering the next generation of China thought leaders.
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Produced by Sam Colombie, with support from Johanna Costigan. Music: ‘We Build With Rubber Bands’, ‘Dirty Wallpaper’ by Blue Dot Sessions.
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