Sarah Dai

Sarah Dai

Sarah is a contributor to Inkstone. She covers technology and start-ups for the South China Morning Post.

Location
Beijing
Shanghai to launch mandatory face scans for drug buyers
Shanghai is rolling out a drug collection terminal equipped with facial recognition technology for medicine buyers in an effort to stem abuse. At the new terminals, pharmacists and buyers of controlled medicines – such as those containing sedatives and psychotropic substances – will be asked to verify their identities by scanning their faces at pharmacies or hospitals, local media reported on Wednesday. The system, which scans both pharmacists and patients, is designed to flag potential and high-risk abusers as well as prevent health care professionals from colluding with patients in obtaining drugs illegally.  The move is expected to prevent potential abusers from obtaining prescription med
One in 20 Chinese workers could be replaced by robots by 2025
By 2025, machines and robots are set to replace nearly 5% of China’s workforce, according to an industry report released this week. In a survey of nearly 2,000 companies in China, the Wuhan University Institute of Quality Development Strategy found that 13.4% used robots as part of their processes in 2017, up from 8.1% two years before. As a result, about 40% of China’s manufacturing workforce could be “potentially affected” by the use of robots, putting further strain on the job market of the world’s most populous country, according to the report. The rise of automation had a disproportionate impact on workers with lower levels of education. Between 2015 and 2017, robotics replaced 9.4% of
TikTok boss hopes DC visit can ease censorship and privacy concerns
The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is wildly popular in the US, especially among teenagers who spend hours posting videos about the latest dance trends, their love-life complaints and personal unique talents.  As it grows into one of the world’s most used social media platforms, TikTok has found itself under increased scrutiny in the US, its third-largest market.  In an attempt to assuage concerns over censorship and user privacy, the head of the short video platform, Alex Zhu, is embarking on a goodwill tour to Capitol Hill.  The meetings with American lawmakers, scheduled for this week, come as the video app’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance is under increasing scrutiny to address cen
Chinese scientists use AI to diagnose genetic disorders in babies
Chinese scientists say they've developed an AI-powered software to help screen newborns for genetic disorders through facial scans. Researchers from the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and the Shanghai Pediatric Center said their new assistive diagnosis tool, which they described as the first of its kind, was designed to detect more than 100 disorders with distinctive facial features, according to a report by state-owned China News Service. They said their AI-enabled tool would be used for initial screening, helping to avoid missed or wrong diagnosis of newborns. Prominent facial features of children with Cornelia de Lange syndrome (CdLS), for example, include thin eyebrows that often me
How AI and human rights get tangled up in the US-China tech rivalry
When Trump administration officials announced on October 7 that they were banning some of China’s most feted artificial intelligence and surveillance companies from buying US technology, the move caught Chinese policymakers off guard. Back in May, the US Commerce Department cited national security concerns when it barred Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei from buying US technology. In its latest move, the Trump administration banned eight companies, including China’s AI national champions SenseTime, Megvii and iFlyTek, and 20 police departments for their purported roles in the suppression of Uygur minorities in Xinjiang. It was the first time that human rights were cited as a reason fo
Self-driving cabs launched in southern China
People in Changsha, the capital of the southern province of Hunan, can now have a taste of the future by hopping into a self-driving taxi. Launched by tech giant Baidu, trial passenger services started in the city on Thursday, about two years after Google’s self-driving unit Waymo started its pilot project in Phoenix, Arizona. The taxi services, involving an initial fleet of 45 autonomous cars, are expected to run initially on 31-mile-long open roads before gradually expanding to cover the entire Changsha pilot zone of 27 square miles, making it the largest trial of its kind, according to the company. “The trial operations in Changsha demonstrate that the Apollo robotaxi is progressing from
China sees a chance to overtake the US with AI chips
Today’s iPhone has 100,000 times the processing power of the Apollo computer that landed humankind on the moon 50 years ago, while costing a tiny fraction of the Nasa machine. This is down to Moore’s Law, the observation by one of the founders of Intel, a chip maker, that computing power doubles every two years. That this correlation has held for five decades helps to explain China’s position on the proverbial hamster wheel – never quite catching up in semiconductor technology. As a relative latecomer to the chip industry, experts reckon China is somewhere between five to 10 years behind the cutting edge in the technology to design and produce integrated circuits (IC). This is important beca
Should China buy semiconductors or make them?
The year-long trade war has shown that the Trump administration is willing to block Chinese access to everything from software to semiconductors to nuclear technology to slow China’s rise. Nowhere is this threat more evident than in semiconductors, after the US put one of China’s top companies, Huawei Technologies, on a trade blacklist that prevents American companies like Intel and Qualcomm from selling it chips. These complex, tiny devices are critical to the function of everyday consumer electronics, communications and computing products, as well as increasingly sophisticated equipment in a range of sectors. In May 2018, Chinese President Xi Jinping met the country’s top scientists and en
First day of school? Get ready for a face scan
Freshmen at a number of prestigious universities in China are getting enrolled through face scans, underscoring just how ubiquitous facial recognition technology is in the country. The universities are now extending their use of facial recognition to the enrollment process, after its initial adoption in applications such as security and recording students’ attendance. China’s elite Tsinghua University was among the first batch of large academic institutions to implement face scans to expedite the registration process this month, when the school welcomed more than 3,800 new undergraduate students at its campus in Beijing. The regular academic year in the country starts in September, though ma
Can China’s Uber regain trust after murders?
At an internal meeting at the Chinese car-hailing giant Didi last year, the questions came thick and fast – as if a steam cooker had just blown its lid. “Have we foregone safety to pursue scale and rapid growth?” asked an employee. “Do we just care about what our investors think?” asked another. “Have we simply paid lip service to ‘safety first’?” Didi’s 36-year-old co-founder and chief executive Cheng Wei and president Jean Liu acknowledged the concerns, according to people familiar with the situation who don’t want to be identified as the meeting was private. The staff session – held to allow employees to state their opinions and frustrations direct to management – followed the rape and mu