Artificial intelligence: Ernie, China's answer to Chat Gpt, disappoints

The search engine Baidu has unveiled its chatbot. After the presentation it lost USD 3 billion in value on the Hong Kong stock exchange. On the other hand, the US company OpenAi is launching GPT-4, which is also capable of artificially interpreting images and no longer just texts. Tech war with Washington threatens Xi Jinping's plans.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Ernie Bot, China's first answer to Chat Gpt, the chatbot based on generative artificial intelligence developed by the US hi-tech company OpenAI, has disappointed. Today, after its unveiling, the Baidu Internet search engine that developed it lost 6.4 per cent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, burning billion.

A chatbot is a chat capable of generating human-like answers to complex questions: it allows interaction with an artificial intelligence system, especially for text processing.

Investors were unimpressed by pre-recorded videos showing Ernie Bot performing mathematical calculations, speaking Chinese dialects and generating videos and images accompanied by text. They were then weighed down by the words of Baidu CEO Robin Li, who admitted that the system was not perfect and that it was presented because the market demanded it.

The difference with the products presented by OpenAI is striking. On 14 March, the US technology company (backed by Microsoft) announced that it had started marketing a new, even more powerful artificial intelligence model. GPT-4 is described as a 'multiple' system, capable of artificially interpreting also images and no longer only texts.

Until the appearance of Chat Gpt in November, China was considered to be at the forefront of artificial intelligence development. Now US rivals seem to have a distinct advantage. Even Li said he was impressed by GPT-4's capabilities, but stressed that Ernie Bot is not a tool for comparison between China and the US.

Besides Baidu, China's other tech giant Alibaba is also developing its own chatbot. Critics of Beijing's efforts argue, however, that the focus on censorship will lead to the development of a distorted tool, far from Western standards.

Beijing's investment in artificial intelligence is threatened by the technology war with the US. By decision of the Biden administration, US companies in the field need a government licence in order to be able to sell machinery for the production of advanced chips - needed in the field of artificial intelligence - to Chinese buyers. Under pressure from Washington, Japan and the Netherlands have also restricted the export of such equipment to China.

Xi Jinping has repeatedly said that Beijing must achieve technological self-sufficiency in order not to be dependent on foreign forces. Morris Chang, founder of the Taiwanese chip giant Tsmc, said today that the Chinese are five to six years behind Taiwan in the development of state-of-the-art microchips.

According to the Made in China 2025 plan launched by Xi in 2015, by 2020 China was supposed to reach the target of producing 40 per cent of chips used for domestic consumption, rising to 70 per cent in the next two years: by 2021 the share was around 16 per cent.