As Alibaba unveils ChatGPT rival, China flags new AI rules

Alibaba’s ChatGPT rival will be integrated into the company’s apps; Beijing says all new tech must adhere to new rules.

Alibaba group
Chinese technology giant Alibaba has built its own version of a generative AI model [File: Mark Schiefelbein/AP Photo]

China’s technology giant Alibaba has unveiled a generative artificial intelligence model – its version of the technology that powers chatbot sensation ChatGPT – and said it would be integrated into all of the company’s apps in the near future.

The unveiling on Tuesday was swiftly followed by the Chinese government’s publication of draft rules outlining how generative artificial intelligence services should be managed.

In a demonstration, the AI language model named Tongyi Qianwen – which means “truth from a thousand questions” – drafted invitation letters, planned trip itineraries, and advised shoppers on types of makeup to buy.

Tongyi Qianwen will initially be integrated into DingTalk, Alibaba’s workplace messaging app and can be used to summarise meeting notes, write emails, and draft business proposals. It will also be added to Tmall Genie, Alibaba’s voice assistant.

The technology “will bring about big changes to the way we produce, the way we work, and the way we live our lives”, CEO Daniel Zhang told the livestreamed event.

AI models such as Tongyi Qianwen are “the big picture for making AI more popular in the future”, he added.

The Chinese internet giant’s cloud unit plans to open up Tongyi Qianwen to clients so they can build their own customised large language models and begin registrations on Friday.

‘Core socialist values’

Meanwhile, draft rules published by the Cyberspace Administration of China said the country supported the technology’s innovation and popularisation, but content generated had to adhere to “core socialist values”, as well as to laws on data security and personal information protection.

Those who fall foul of the rules could face fines or criminal investigation, it added.

The proposed rules, open for public comment until May 10, come as governments around the world are looking at how best to regulate generative AI technology, which has sparked much concern about its ethical implications, as well as its effect on national security, jobs and education.

Italy last month temporarily banned ChatGPT – the chatbot sensation developed by Microsoft-backed OpenAI that has sparked the run of companies developing similar products.

Elon Musk and a group of AI experts and industry executives have also called for a six-month pause in developing systems more powerful than OpenAI’s newly launched GPT-4, citing potential risks to human societies.

Charlie Chai, an analyst from 86Research, said Beijing’s new rules would potentially slow down progress “in exchange for a more orderly and socially responsible deployment of the technology”.

The guidelines will also set up obstacles for foreign companies looking to provide AI services in the country, benefitting domestic companies, Chai added.

China has for years tightly censored its internet and its tech giants are careful to toe the line, especially on topics considered sensitive such as Chinese President Xi Jinping and the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square.


Source: Reuters