Artificial general intelligence more than 10 years away: Baidu CEO

Co-founder, CEO and chairman of Baidu, Robin Li attends the Viva Technology show at Parc des Expositions Porte de Versailles on May 22, 2024 in Paris, France. Viva Technology, the biggest tech show in Europe but also in a unique digital format, for 4 days of reconnection and relaunch thanks to innovation. The event brings together startups, CEOs, investors, tech leaders and all of the digital transformation players who are shaping the future of the Internet. 

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PARIS — Robin Li, CEO of one of China’s biggest tech firms Baidu, said artificial intelligence that is smarter than humans is more than 10 years away, even as industry staple Elon Musk predicts it will emerge very soon.

Artificial general intelligence, or AGI, broadly relates to AI that is as smart or smarter than humans.

Tesla boss Musk said this year that AGI would likely be available by 2026. OpenAI CEO Sam Altman said in January that AGI could be developed in the “reasonably close-ish future.”

Li, whose company Baidu is one of China’s leading AI players, signals this isn’t realistic.

“AGI is still quite a few years away. Today, a lot of people talk about AGI, [and] they’re saying … it’s probably two years away, it’s probably, you know, five years away. I think [it] is more than 10 years away,” Li said during a talk on Wednesday at the VivaTech conference in Paris.

“By definition, AGI is that a computer or AI can be as smart as a human right? Or sometimes … smarter. But we would want an AI to be as smart as [a] human. And today’s most powerful models are far from that. And how do you achieve that level of intelligence? We don’t know.”

Li called for the faster pace of development of AI.

“[My] fear is that is that AI technology is not improving fast enough. Everyone’s shocked how fast the technology evolved over the past couple of years. But to me it’s still not fast enough. It’s too slow,” he said.

AI growth

Baidu last year launched its ChatGPT-style chatbot called Ernie, based on the company’s same-named large language model.

Chinese firms including Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are investing heavily in their own AI models, like U.S. counterparts.

Li said that there is a big difference between developing the technology in the U.S., versus in China. In the U.S. and Europe, companies are focusing on “coming up with the most powerful, most cutting edge foundation model,” according to Li. But in China, he noted the focus is on applications of the technology.

Despite this, the Baidu CEO said there is no “killer app” right now for AI.

“Today, in the mobile age, you have apps like Instagram, YouTube, TikTok. The daily active users are in the order of, like, a few 100 million to a billion users, right? And for AI native apps, we don’t see that yet. We don’t see that in U.S. We don’t see that in China. We don’t see that in Europe,” Li said.

“What’s the right form for AI native apps? What kind of … AI native apps will be able to reach the 100 million user mark?”

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