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AI technology fosters rise of smart society

Author  :  Luo Jiaojiang and Hao Long     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2018-05-03

The 19th CPC National Congress report proposed that it is necessary to accelerate China’s transformation into a country of innovators through a series of strategic actions that advance the development of world-class science and technology. These efforts will provide powerful support for building China’s strength in science and technology, product quality, aerospace, cyberspace and transportation; and for building a digital China and a smart society, according to the report. 

It reflects the ethos of the current era that smart society building was listed together with the other aforementioned targeted sectors as one of the ways to make China a stronger country. An upgraded version of the general-sensed society building, the concept of a smart society is rising as a corollary of artificial intelligence (AI).

The rapid development of science and technology has ushered in the era of AI. Definitely, it is a metaphorical way to describe the breakthroughs in science and technology and their influence on society by using the appellation “era,” which does not denote the exact meaning of a certain period. The evolution of the three eras—from the era of the internet to the era of big data, and to the era of AI—which are closely interrelated with each other, occurred within 20 or 30 years. 

There is nothing wrong with saying that we are living in the era of the internet or the era of big data. But to me, it is more appropriate to say this is the era of AI in order to highlight the importance of AI to social development, because it comprises the connotation of both the internet and big data, and is the advanced stage of the development of the latter two.

Currently, AI, with its powerful ability to assist or replace humans to live, study, work and entertain in a faster and better way, has brought an unprecedented increase in the behavioral efficiency and social quality of humanity. In this process, the values, concepts, modes of thinking, behavioral patterns, interpersonal relationships, self-cognition and consciousness, emotional experience and expression are being subtly altered in various ways. At the same time, the application of AI in economy, finance, medical treatment, healthcare, education, culture, social governance and other sectors has also been carried out. 

Smart society is a result of the adjustment and upgrading of the previous social building guidelines to keep pace with the AI era. Intelligence is based on people’s physiological constitution or biological properties, while smartness is a new type of mental state that is beyond intelligence and is generated on the basis of the integration of intelligence and social culture. Therefore, the smart society in China is a social form based on the integration of AI technology and Chinese culture, embodying the unique mental and spiritual traits of the Chinese people.

To achieve the goal of building smart society, social science theories and methods should be innovated. Social sciences reacted in a timely manner to the advent of the internet era and big data era, and computational social science arises correspondingly. However, people later found that there are many difficulties and obstacles to overcome in the development of the computational social sciences. For example, much doubt existed at that time as to whether computational social science couldbear fruit because research and development level of the new type of social computing tools needed to be further improved. One case in point was that the processing of the unstructured data confronted a number of technical difficulties including those related to image and speech recognition as well as natural language processing. Fortunately, the development of AI today has already overcome or is overcoming these difficulties. 


Luo Jiaojiang and Hao Long are respectively a professor and a P h. D candidate from the Department of Sociology at Wuhan University.


(Edited and translated by BAI LE)

Editor: yu-hui

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