Baidu CEO warns of wasted resources and lack of applications

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Baidu co-founder and CEO Robin Li Yanhong said China has too many large language models (LLMs) and called on technology leaders to focus more on building real applications driven by artificial intelligence (AI).

“In 2023, China has seen intense competition among more than 100 LLMs, leading to significant waste of resources, especially computing power,” Li said during a panel discussion at the World Conference on Artificial Intelligence (WAIC) in Shanghai on Thursday.

Li called on developers to build more practical applications instead of constantly refining the technology underlying generative AI (GenAI) products like OpenAI’s ChatGPT.

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“I’ve noticed that a lot of people still focus primarily on fundamental models,” he said. “But I want to ask: What about real-world applications? Who has benefited from it?”

The Chinese GenAI market has become crowded with over 200 LLMs appearing since ChatGPT launched in late 2022. Excessive competition from Big Tech companies has resulted in a price war for commercial AI serviceswhile global players like OpenAI and Google are being kept out of the market.

Like much of the global industry, China’s AI market is still in the early stages of monetization. Baidu’s Li said logistics and creative writing are two industries that have already benefited from AI-powered applications that improve efficiency.

Baidu Comate, the internet search giant’s coding assistant headed by Ernie LLM, has been deployed internally for employee use. Li said 30 percent of the company’s coding is now handled by AI.

Baidu on Friday also introduced the new Ernie 4.0 Turbo model, which is available to business customers, accompanied by a further 83 percent price cut for the Ernie 4.0 and Ernie 3.5 LLMs.

“I think applications are the key to determining whether this era is a critical moment for AI,” he said. Xu LiCEO and co-founder of Chinese AI pioneer SenseTime, on the same panel with Baidu’s Li.

“Although our industry is currently a hot topic, the critical moment has not yet been reached. This is because there are no applications in vertical industries that have led to major changes,” Xu said.

Yan Junjie, CEO of MiniMax and leader of another leading AI startup in China, said at the conference that he expects there will be a major consolidation in the industry in the future, with LLMs mainly being developed by just five companies.

The surprising overnight success of ChatGPT created a wave of soul searching in China and sparked a race to train the best Chinese-developed LLMs.

Besides a small group of startups known as China’s ‘AI Tigers’Major tech companies have poured resources into the market. TikTok owner ByteDancesocial media giant Tencent Holdings and e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba Group Holdingowner of the Post, began drastically cutting prices for LLM services in May in an effort to attract users.

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP)the most authoritative voice covering China and Asia for over a century. For more SCMP stories, explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP’s Facebook And Twitter pages. Copyright © 2024 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2024. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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