The World’s Most Valuable AI Unicorn

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SenseTime is an Artificial Intelligence startup based in China. The company researches and develops several practical AI services, including intelligent video analytics, identity verification, mobile internet, and autonomous vehicle tech, all of which make SenseTime China’s largest AI algorithm provider.

Large international companies are looking to make strides in emerging AI technologies, and China hopes to become a world leader in these technologies. As such, investors are “flocking to invest” in SenseTime and related companies.

In 2017, Chinese chipmaker Qualcomm bought a stake in SenseTime when the company was valued at $1.5 billion. By May of 2018, the company’s valuation rose to more than $4.5 billion. SenseTime raised over $1.2 billion in 2018, making it the most well-funded AI startup in the world and dubbing it a ‘unicorn’(a private startup worth more than $1 billion). This year, rumors from Bloomberg have it that they are looking for an additional $2 billion in funds.

E-commerce giant and SenseTime investor, Alibaba, has taken a particular interest in raising funds for the startup, stating: “Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI and we are committed to further investment”

SenseTime is “particularly valuable” because it provides AI surveillance technology to the Chinese government. Their ‘Viper’ system plans to analyze over 100,000 simultaneous video feeds from traffic cameras, security cameras, and ATMs using facial recognition and identification software in order to place tags on people, potentially creating a dangerously powerful tool for the Chinese government. They are already known to limit the Chinese people’s exposure to global media through nationwide censorship. Could AI advancements offered by SenseTime grant the Chinese government even more control over the nation’s people?

The possibility of SenseTime AI functionality being used to monitor Chinese people adds an additional layer of ethical questions surrounding AI. Lawmakers around the world need to be aware of the potential for harm which Artificial Intelligence holds in all applications. SenseTime is a prominent example of useful AI services which might be used with malicious intent.

As companies like SenseTime improve AI technology, people must be aware that the applications of Artificial Intelligence have a great potential for danger. It is not a question of AI itself presenting a danger, but rather humans using extremely efficient AI services in harmful ways.

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About the author

Kartik is a new sophomore at St. Mark’s School. He lives in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts and is a boarding student. He enjoys rowing, watching movies, and reading about current events. He is a member of St. Mark’s A Capella and enjoys singing for the school choir. In his free time, Kartik likes to work out with friends. This year, Kartik hopes to be a thoughtful contributor to the Parkman Post and create content which highlights unique perspectives on the news.

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