Practical AI – Episode #60

Blacklisted facial recognition and surveillance companies

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The United States has blacklisted several Chinese AI companies working in facial recognition and surveillance. Why? What are these companies doing exactly, and how does this fit into the international politics of AI? We dig into these questions and attempt to do some live fact finding in this episode.



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Welcome to another Fully Connected episode of Practical AI, where my co-host Chris and I keep you fully connected with everything that’s happening in the AI community. We’ll take some time to discuss some of the latest AI news and dig into some learning resources to help you level up your machine learning game.

I’m joined today, as usual, by my co-host, Chris Benson, who is the principal AI strategist at Lockheed Martin. How are you doing, Chris? Welcome back from vacation.

Thank you very much, it’s good to be back.

Our listeners may not know, but you got to have a nice couple weeks of vacation, and I hope you had some good rest with that.

I did. I’d started as we were recording some previous episodes in the U.K, but my wife is British, so she and my daughter joined me there, and we spent two weeks with family and friends, and had a great time. Thanks. It was nice just to walk away for two weeks and recharge the batteries, so I’m back, ready to go.

Awesome. Well, you may or may not know, but during the last couple weeks while you were enjoying vacation the international AI politics world kind of exploded a bit, to say the least… There’s been some developments related to China and AI, and that’s definitely been a central point in the news that’s intersected the AI community, so I thought that might be good to dig into a bit today. What do you think?

Absolutely, let’s jump into it. I’ve been largely sequestered from the news, so I’ll be coming in bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, hearing it for the first time… So let’s dive in with what you’ve got, Daniel.

Sounds good. I should say, I don’t think either one of us consider ourselves complete - or even semi - experts on international trade, and politics, and all sorts of things that factor into this, but kind of the bottom line is that AI and tech, and these interactions that have been happening between the U.S. and China, they’re all intertwined in this really weird and interesting (and sometimes disturbing) way.

[04:12] Maybe a good way to start out this discussion would just be to give a little bit of background on some of the elements that are coming into this. We’re eventually gonna get to a point where we can talk about this AI blacklist that the U.S. came out with, that is blacklisting U.S. companies from doing business with certain AI companies in China - which is why we’re talking about it on this podcast… But there’s a whole bunch of things factoring into that.

One of those is the Uyghur population in China. The Uyghurs in China are an ethnic minority, they’re a Muslim minority group in China, in the Western part of China, in Xinjiang and it’s pretty well-documented at this point - so we’re not speculating here - by the United Nations and others that there’s been about a million of these ethnic Uyghurs in China that have been detained by China in (what they call) reeducation camps… So essentially detained. Have you heard about this?

I totally have. Before I went on vacation, that had been going on for quite some time, and I think it’s tragic. Anytime that you have a government clamping down on ethnic groups, that’s just a sad situation. Yeah, I think it’s definitely something that we should all be aware of, if we’re not already.

Yeah, definitely. There’s of course a lot of human rights issues tied up in this, but it is interesting that all of this stuff that’s happening with the Uyghurs in China is very connected, actually, to AI and the tech side of things. Of course, China has been taking a harder-line approach to dealing with these Muslim minorities, and part of that has to do with this sophisticated surveillance technology that they’re developing and deploying across this region.

I think you’ve probably mentioned a couple times on the podcast things related to facial recognition, if I remember right, and some of the ethics things tied into that…

Yeah. In terms of surveillance of its own citizens, China doesn’t just lead the way globally; they are in a classification all by themselves. I recently, for a talk that I was giving, that wasn’t specifically about this, but I was looking at different cities around the world with surveillance, that had some tie into AI and such… China just dominated the list. And if you looked at the raw number of cameras in the regions, China has just orders of magnitude more. So there’s kind of China, and then the rest of the world in terms of surveillance of this type.

Yeah, it’s increased, too. I think it was around spring and June, it started seeing a pretty big surge in Academic research papers that – I mean, you could imagine cases where maybe they wouldn’t be used for surveilling Muslim minorities, but it was almost completely obvious that these papers from Chinese researchers were geared towards upping the surveillance of these minority groups. I’m just pulling up a couple of those now that I had written down.

[08:01] This one - it’s an article - “Facial feature discovery for ethnicity recognition.” So it’s not really hidden at all there. They even talk about constructing an ethnical group face dataset including Chinese Uyghurs, Tibetan and Korean. So these papers are not so subtle, and it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of AI research that’s actually going into this, which is pretty disturbing. I know there were a lot of people at that time calling for peer review journals to up their ethics part of their review with these things. I guess that gets into some conversations around censorship and other things. There’s a whole lot of things factored in here.

Yeah, we’ve talked previously about the social credit system that is in place in certain parts of China, and has been going through implementation over the last couple of years, and continues to be implemented, starting in major cities such as Beijing, and then moving out from there. What we’re seeing with the Uyghurs here is essentially kind of the worst-case scenario being realized, where you’re specifically targeting an ethnic group and you’re using this advanced technology to enable that targeting. It’s the world that we definitely didn’t wanna see coming about, as lovers of these technologies that we talk about every week.

Yeah. And on top of that – so this is kind of a first slice of the complication pie. A second slice of that, of course, is the ongoing U.S-China trade negotiation/trade war stuff that’s happening. I’m sure even while you were on vacation you probably could not avoid hearing every once in a while someone talking about that at the pub, or something like that.

Oh, constantly. In the U.K, while I was there – I mean, everyone obviously talks about Brexit, but they also talk about the Americans and the Chinese, and Trump, and all of that. So yeah, even though my wife largely tried to ban me from social media, news, anything that was online, to try to get me to focus on the family, which I tried to comply with as best as I possibly could (I think I succeeded), we would still meet up with friends and family and they would immediately say “Chris, what’s the American take on this and that and the other?”, and I would try to explain. The U.S-China trade war is one of those top things that everyone around the world is talking about right now.

Yeah, and it’s kind of in a state of going back and forth, like “Oh, we’re gonna put tariffs on soybeans, and whatever”, and then “We’re gonna put tariffs on cranberries”, and “We’re gonna put tariffs on X, Y and Z”, so you’ve got this back and forth. I think even today - at least at the time of this recording - there’s trade negotiations going on between Trump and his team and the Chinese delegation in Washington.


So that’s kind of a pie slice complication, too. Then you’ve got all of this other stuff that’s happening in places like Hong Kong, especially Hong Kong, where there’s been these pro-democracy protests going on forever. Of course, facial recognition and surveillance has been a topic in that as well. I’ve seen pictures of protesters taking down these surveillance poles or posts that have cameras on them… So there’s a pro-democracy protest element going on there, tied in with China, but also an AI component as well.

[12:04] There is. Even yesterday I was reading an article that Apple and the App Store had removed an app that told protesters where police were, and the Hong Kong government - their position was “You’re putting police lives in danger.” I sense though that the reality is quite the opposite in terms of who is actually in danger.

Yeah, there’s really a lot of elements of this. There’s even the NBA, the basketball association - which I’m not a sportsperson, but the NBA is huge in China, I do know that… So they’re involved in this now, because of some of the things that a coach or a manager had said. The TV show South Park - they’re kind of embroiled in this… So there’s all of these different elements where the U.S. and China and AI and tech and trade are all sort of coalescing into this weirdness, I guess.

Yeah, we’re seeing divided worlds in so many areas, and this is becoming a rather extreme case of it.

Yeah. So that brings us to – whenever it was, last week I guess, at this point, where we have this blacklist of AI companies coming out. The U.S. Commerce Department said that it’s adding a bunch of Chinese organizations and businesses to this list, but it includes at least eight primarily AI-focused companies, adding to this list called “The Entity List for Acting Against American Foreign Policy Interests.” It’s a long name. Essentially, what this does - the mechanism, or what it results in - is that it bars U.S. companies from selling technologies to these blacklisted entities, which obviously is a type of sanctioned situation.

Sure, absolutely. And I think the concern there is probably first and foremost security issues on whether or not information is collected and passed back to China, for use by the government, or even by commercial entities that are maybe operating on behalf of the government… And then obviously, there’s intellectual property issues tied to it as well.

Okay, so there’s these eight AI-focused companies that have been blacklisted by the U.S. government… And I kind of started – as I was thinking through this, I started thinking, first of all, it’s probably interesting technology in a variety of ways that these companies are developing; whether it’s being used for bad or good, I’m not totally sure. They are kind of all tied up in this complicated situation. So I thought, Chris, if you’re up for it, maybe what we could do is just try to do a sort of blind taste testing of these companies and see essentially who they are, what they say they’re developing, what news sources are telling us that they’re developing, and get a pulse on the state of the Chinese AI companies and what they’re doing… And what is interesting tech-wise maybe, what is cool, and positive, what isn’t cool and positive, what everybody is saying… I don’t know, are you up for that game?

I’m up for the game. Essentially, here in front of all of our friends listening, we’re gonna go to their websites and take a look at what they’re saying?

Yeah, definitely. I’ll start us out. I’ll go do the first one’s website, and try to tell you what my impression is of what they’re developing and what they have.

And then maybe at the same time you could look up a couple of news articles that you find, and you can see if they have the same impression of what they’re doing, or if there’s a gap there, or whatever we can learn. Sound good?

It’s a deal. What company do you wanna start with?

The first one on my list that I had seen was called Hikvision; I’m not sure of the pronunciation… This demonstrates that I’m really going into this blind. Sorry if I’m mispronouncing your company name, I do apologize. Their website that I’m at is, and the big thing that I’m noticing when I go to this website is everything about cameras. There’s pages of network cameras, product selectors where you can select your camera, it’s talking about apertures on cameras, and advanced sensors, and all sorts of things… But I see a kind of tab that’s machine vision, and that seems to be probably what’s most relevant for us.

It says “Hikvision’s success in the video surveillance market was established blah-blah-blah… They have fast and accurate positioning guidance, dimension measurement and identification.” And this is from the robotics division, they’re highlighting here an under-vehicle surveillance system, and machine vision cameras.

So it looks like they’re promoting the usage of this technology in a variety of ways which do seem completely legitimate. If you’re trying to see if there’s bombs under your car, you could have this camera system under your car - I’m assuming that’s what it’s meaning, to identify certain objects under a car… And they’re also emphasizing the machine vision side of things in terms of manufacturing… So installing these cameras in manufacturing places to trace certain objects through your factory, let’s say, or to sort items in your factory.

So that’s kind of the sense that I get, that they’re really leading in machine vision, but emphasizing a lot of these industrial applications of the machine vision.

[20:01] I do see one example that’s an unmanned aerial vehicle, so a drone, and they’re emphasizing the use of that in managing transportation infrastructure and equipment, so like highways.

Gotcha. So while you were doing that, I googled and got a Bloomberg article called - and I’m probably gonna butcher the name, too - “China’s Hikvision has probably filmed you”, is what the article title is. It starts with a couple of bullets that say “Cameras are installed at army bases, airports and schools”, and then a second bullet says “Trump administration concerned about Chinese spying tactics.”

As I scanned down through this article while you were talking, there was one paragraph that kind of jumped out. It says “Hikvision, which is controlled by the Chinese government and Dahua are leaders in the market for surveillance technology, with cameras that can produce sharp, full-color images in fog and near-total darkness. They also use artificial intelligence to–”

Oh, wow… I mean, that’s pretty cool.

Yeah. They also use artificial intelligence to power 3D people counting cameras and facial recognition systems on a vast scale. I certainly can understand why the U.S. government – if any of that is accurate, and if they were using it in certain venues, I could understand why there might be a concern over that; that doesn’t mean, obviously, that I have any insight into their activities, or how they use it… But I could certainly understand why any government might be concerned about the potential for another government to be able to use these technologies to gain insight from an intelligence standpoint.

Yeah, it is interesting, because the sense I get from the website is very much like a manufacturing focus. Even some of the headlines are about industrial area scanning cameras, and of course, the traffic transportation management stuff… So yeah, at least on the English version of the site - that’s kind of what they’re emphasizing. To be honest, that seems like a very legitimate use of the technology, and probably something that Amazon and others are doing as well, right?

Yeah, and it’s interesting you raised that… A few months ago there was a bit of a scandal with Amazon - specifically AWS - and its services for facial recognition being used by law enforcement here in the U.S, with our citizens… And it was a bit of an uproar, and Amazon turned around. I believe the product, by the way, was the Rekognition product, and they stopped selling it to law enforcement is my understanding, if I recall it correctly; it’s been a few months.

Right. But maybe they’re using it in their warehouse for similar things that are being emphasized on this website, like traceability, or - smart logistics is how they term it.

Totally. It’s funny, as we talk about this… I spend a lot of time on the topic of AI ethics as part of my job, and other tangential interests to that, and as I look at this, it’s really all about what is your attention here. If you’re looking at this company, if they’re using it for some of the use cases that you outlined, then that is beneficial, that is something that increases the capability potentially, if they’re using it for nefarious purposes… It really comes down to intent and use case, in terms of whether or not they’re being fairly called out or not.

[24:00] Yeah, and probably if they’re advertising these things and they have use case stories around them, I imagine they are using a technology for manufacturing and logistics, and those sorts of things. I guess the shadiness is probably the connection with the government, and what they potentially don’t feature on the website.

I think that’s a fair statement. The concern – and it’s different, it’s not universal; it’s different between the U.S. and the U.K, I’ve noticed. The U.S. concern is largely on worrying about the nefarious issues and intent. The U.K, on the other hand, has largely said they are absolutely gonna continue to do business with China. Outside China, London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world, with their CCTV system… And they are a lot less worried about it there. It’s an interesting perspective shift.

For sure. So let’s go to candidate number two, company on the blacklist number two that we’re gonna look into. This one’s called iFlytek. I’m pretty sure that’s the correct pronunciation. I don’t know how else you would say that, so that one’s easier. iFlytek - do you wanna take a look at their website? And maybe we can flip-flop, and then I’ll see what I can find elsewhere on the internet.

Okay, that is fine. I have found their website… This is all in Chinese, for the moment.

Oh, you’ve gotta get some Google Translate going…

Did you open that in Chrome?

I did open it in Chrome, but it didn’t automatically translate, so maybe we’ll flip-flop for the moment, so we don’t waste people’s time, and then I’ll do the article googling. Sorry about that.

Alright, here we go. I would like to take this time as a proud data scientist with SIL international to highlight the world’s language problems, that are still yet to be solved.

[laughs] Yes!

Yeah, so I did get the translate option there… So I got the translate option, and it’s telling me – let’s see; I’m scrolling down… There’s a bit about education on the front, and I see this odd-looking robot thing, like a robot guy; they’re talking about “Internet plus government affairs solved a roundup operation between civil affairs departments.” They’re talking about an AI lab, all around application of government and industry, intelligent business, smart tube business… I’m assuming that maybe has to do with trains, or something like that.

They have this thing called HyperBrain, or HyperBrain Project, which is a laboratory for speech and language information processing. That sounds pretty cool. A cognitive intelligence system based on a humanoid neural network, based on the key projects of the 800 people… This is all a translation, but it seems like they’re at least doing something with machine intelligence language. It looks like they’ve got some partnerships with malls and shopping, and some developer toolkit sort of stuff.

[28:02] That’s pretty much what I’m – I may be butchering all of that, because I’m working off of a translation, but… Right at the top it says “Empower the world with AI”, so it seems pretty ambitious.

Gotcha. It does. I’ve found an article here - it’s - “Why 500 million people in China are talking to this AI.” It was funny, when I pulled in, just as you were starting to get into looking over their web page, when I heard iFlytek, I just assumed it was a drone company, not being familiar with it. I just came from the first AlphaPilot race, going back to a recent episode where we talked about AlphaPilot… So I was rather surprised to suddenly realize it was language-based.

They talk in this article about a bunch of things, including that they have a developer platform called “The iFlytek Open Platform”, which provides voice-based technologies to over 400,000 developers in various industries.

Yeah, I see that Developer tab on the website, yeah.

In U.S. dollars they’d be valued as a 12 billion dollar company. International operations… You know, it looks interesting. It looks a lot like–

Yeah. Honestly, a lot of the things they mentioned are personally interesting to me, in terms of the voice and language technology, for sure.

Which reminds me - and I’ll say this out loud, so that all of our listeners here… We’ve got at some point to interview you about that, because – for those listeners that don’t know, Daniel is quite the expert in that area, so… Upcoming episode. I’ve now committed you in front of our entire audience.

Ha-ha! We can definitely arrange that sometime. Yeah… Did you see anything in those articles about this whole – one of the things I see them keep emphasizing here is education and these child toy robot things.

Yeah, there’s a picture at the top. Let me delve into that here. I think that’s what we’re getting into. What do you know about that?

I don’t know… It just says “Children’s intelligence”, and I’m trying to open up the page, but it’s not letting me go there. Hopefully I’m not blacklisted.

No, it’s talking about a lot of different uses, but I haven’t seen the children one yet.

Interesting, yeah. I see machine translation, smart office, intelligent transfer - which I’m not sure what that is - audio, children’s intelligence, and learning or education.

They have a voice assistant for drivers, and I’m not gonna try the Mandarin word for this, but the English translation is “Little flying fish”.

Nice, I like it.

Yeah, very quaint there.

Cool. Well, it seems like they’re involved in a lot of cool stuff. It seems like one of the first things that came up with the last one - Hikvision - was the very close connection with the government.

Yes, it was. Speaking as someone who doesn’t know these companies, I could see the possibility for ominous overtones on the first company we looked at. This one seems a lot friendlier, a lot more child and consumer-oriented. It certainly doesn’t come off with those ominous overtones, so…

Let’s see if we continue that trend into company number three, which is Megvii. Why don’t you take the website this time around?

So long as it has the English, because I don’t have the translate button, so we’ll try it out here.

See if you’ve got that.

I do. I have an English version.

Alright, cool.

“Power humanity with AI.” Okay…

[32:13] Ambitious.

“Power humanity”, I know. Let’s not dream small. They have a proprietary deep learning framework, they gather top-tier AI talent, and they integrate… So far, this first page is very typical of what you see with companies touting AI stuff.

It almost sounds like Google Brain, OpenAI sort of feel.

Yeah, it does. They describe themselves just as a world-class AI company with core competency in deep learning. Full-stack solutions… It kind of feels IBM-ish. Kind of like a bunch of corporate talk…

Somewhat vague?

Yeah, somewhat vague. I’m so sorry to you, IBM-ers; I really wasn’t trying to insult you. I just apologize there.

IBM is doing a lot of cool stuff. Hopefully we’ll have someone from there on soon, we’re talking to.

Okay. A leadership team of young – they’re all young men, they look the age of my own grown children, so…

Now I’m feeling really old. Okay.

Yeah. So I’m looking at a couple articles from Wired and TechCrunch… It looks like one of the big news recently was that the company had an IPO, a public listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange… But both of these articles that I’m looking at definitely have the more ominous overtone, probably similar to the first one.

There’s a very big focus in both articles - which we’ll link in the show notes, for sure, all of these things we’re talking about - but much more focused on facial recognition. “Behind the rise of China’s facial recognition giants”, this is saying that Megvii is one of the four Chinese AI startups specializing in facial recognition, so they specifically call that out as their specialty… And valued at more than one billion, which is pretty crazy. So that would qualify them as a unicorn, in Silicon Valley speak.

So a unicorn… Obviously, promoting a lot of deep learning technology, but it seems like that one billion, and their IPO, and most of their value is related to facial recognition and surveillance. It says Megvii’s investors include Alibaba, Ant Financial, and the Bank of China, which I think if – I mean, I’m no expert on those companies, but I think that’s a fairly close tie to the Chinese government.

Yup, probably so. Interestingly, I don’t think the website comes off quite as ominously as I’ve been scrolling around through it. It really does have that very corporatey feel to it. Rather than talking about the applications, they talk about their amazing deep learning capabilities, and they talk about smart cities, and a lot of the normal buzzwords that you find with American Silicon Valley companies.

Cool. They’re coming off definitely more research-focused…

They are, definitely.

…it seems, like maybe the other two. Kind of to be competitive with like a Google Brain or OpenAI, or something like that.

[36:00] Yeah, I would agree.

Cool. Well, let’s say that Megvii definitely has some interesting things going on… But maybe there’s a sort of ominous overtone that’s coming through. Are you getting that?

Possibly so, yeah. Especially from what you’ve mentioned.

Alright, so that brings us to our last contestant today… [laughter] I don’t know if I should be phrasing this as a game, because it’s quite serious stuff, but I don’t know what else to do.

It is, but let’s have fun with it.

Alright, sounds good. I’ll take the website this time around. This one is Yitu. Again, not sure on the pronunciation. Hopefully some of our listeners maybe correct us on some of these things that I’m sure we’re getting wrong. So I actually like their website quite a bit; it’s much more appealing design-wise to me than the previous ones I was looking at, so great job there Yitu.

It seems like a very similarly Google Brainy/researchy type website. They say that they’re developing technologies that are driving change in the world. Those include proprietary, full-stack technology, in-depth explorations into fundamental AI technologies, including computer vision, speech recognition, natural language comprehension and human-machine interactions.

They talk about being champions in the Face Recognition Vendor Test, which is apparently a gold standard for global industrial applications. They talk about management technologies, hundred-million scale data traffic, unlocking multi-industry scenarios for intelligent cities, and having world-class technology talent.

So there’s definitely sort of “We’re exploring all the AI things” feel, plus that very clear call-out that they are the best in the world at facial recognition. There’s no hiding that. These are the best.

I saw two articles. One talks about that they’re seeking an IPO; that’s from Bloomberg. It was a recent one, on September 3rd, just over a month ago as we record this… But the other one is a CNBC article, and the title is “This Chinese facial recognition startup can identify a person in seconds.” It starts off with–

They’re world champions, man.

Apparently so. It starts off with the points that China plans to be a global leader in AI by 2030, which we’ve all known for a while. The market for facial recognition alone is expected to be 9.6 billion by 2022. The next bullet is a little bit scary, but it’s something we already know - China’s facial recognition database includes nearly every one of China’s 1.4 billion citizens.

Then it just talked about the fact that they had wide recognition for their facial scan platform. So a little bit of an ominous overtone before you even get into the article right there. Now, this is CNBC, and potentially it’s an American take as such on that, but… Yeah, it definitely feels like a little bit closer to supporting government aims, a social currency such as that.

[40:18] Yeah. One interesting thing that I’m noticing here on this one is – I mean, similar to some of the other ones, they’re emphasizing some of the non-facial recognition stuff that they’re doing, which sounds amazing. I mean, there’s a cancer detection tool, improving diagnosis of sick children, pushing the boundaries on Mandarin speech recognition… Really cool stuff. And one interesting thing is that some of this - like the sick children one - they talk about a Chinese-U.S. joint development, so there’s definitely an international flair to some of this research which they’re highlighting. A lot of that sounds pretty cool, and I don’t doubt that – I can look at the link to these papers; they’re publishing papers on the cancer stuff, and other things. So it’s definitely not like they’re just falsifying what they’re doing… But facial recognition and that surveillance is a piece of it.

Yeah. And that, once again, comes back to what is their intent. What are they trying to do with it across their use case spectrum. And probably many are very reasonable use cases, but there are some – this article certainly leaves that ominous overtone in terms of how it might be supporting the social currency system in China… Which obviously – there’s a value difference right there between Western values and Eastern values, at least there in China. That’s the kind of thing that would scare more Westerners in a variety of Western countries… I think even in places like in the U.K, in London, where people expect to be surveilled, I think they would expect that the way the information is being used is not so nefarious.

So it’s interesting to see as we look at global trade how we’re going to reconcile some of these differences in terms of how we approach society, how we approach business and trade, and I think some of these companies – they may be acting completely appropriately based on an objective standard. I think one of the scary things, certainly for the American perspective, is just the ability to verify that, the ability to understand that they’re dealing with a vendor that does not have an ulterior motive, and stuff. Whether or not that would deserve to put them on the list here or not - I have no insight into that. It’s a tough thing, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near solving that.

If I was to summarize what I think I’ve seen in going through this exercise - which again, is just a brief exercise, so I’m sure there’s many more elements of this that we don’t know about… But if I was to summarize where my mind is at on it - on the positive side, these AI companies and researchers in China are without a doubt top notch.


[43:44] They’re doing some amazing things in computer vision, but also outside computer vision, in places like language and other areas, like chat, and dialogue, and voice. So there’s no question that they are producing some amazing research findings, and advancing those fields. But there’s always this undertone of like “Well, how much are these companies involved with the Chinese government? How much of their funding is coming from these projects that are explicitly targeting and marginalizing this Muslim minority and other communities?”

There’s always like “Yes, we know you’re innovating in all of these areas”, but there’s kind of this shadow cast on a lot of that, which is unfortunate, in terms of how much of it is being used for those purposes. That’s kind of where my mind is at, I guess.

Yeah, I think there’s a real cultural difference in terms of knowing – you know, as someone who’s working in the American defense industry, you generally know whether or not a company in this industry has a direct government tie or not. You may not know the specifics of the work that they do, but we don’t tend to leave that so ambiguous in terms of your understanding. I work for Lockheed Martin, and everybody knows that Lockheed Martin does work with the U.S. government and other governments. It’s not hidden, it’s in the news all the time, so you kind of know what you’re getting there.

I think the challenge in certainly American minds, and maybe Western minds at large, is the fact that the relationships are not so obvious with China and the companies, between the government and the companies that are there… And in my very biased viewpoint, I would argue that if they were able to establish more clearly, in a transparent way, what their business with their own government is (if any), that would help alleviate many of the concerns that other countries have. Because obviously, no nation-state is going to want to subject itself to potential spying by any other country… And that’s not even specific to these cases.

This is one of those things where whether you have a relationship or don’t have a relationship between government and business, being transparent about the existence or lack of one, would certainly alleviate concerns around the world.

Sure. Well put. I think that this whole episode has been a learning experience for me; hopefully it has for our listeners as well. We will put all of the links that we accessed into our show notes, so that you could recreate our experiment if you like.

Before we close out for the day, I just wanted to mention, on a completely different subject - TensorFlow 2.0, that happened. We always like to share a few practical learning resources… Hopefully, again, this episode has been a learning resource in some ways, but on the practical programming side, François Chollet created this really nice TensorFlow 2.0 and Keras overview colab notebook. We’ll link that in the notes if you’re wanting to keep up with that TensorFlow 2.0 stuff and Keras. It’s a great place to start. I definitely wanna take a look at that.

Absolutely. And I want to invite all of our listeners to engage us. So many of you already do engage us in our Slack community, engage us on Twitter, on LinkedIn… Today was an experiment as an episode, and we enjoyed ourselves. Let us know whether you liked it. If you didn’t like it, let us know that too. We’re gonna continue to experiment with the show and try different things, and a lot of the things that we try come from your comments… So don’t hesitate to let us know what you think and make suggestions.

Thank you for listening again.

Alright, we’ll talk to you soon, Chris.

Take care, Daniel.


Our transcripts are open source on GitHub. Improvements are welcome. 💚

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