War of words

War of words
Sep 28, 2018 (WiC 426)

One of China’s leading exponents of voice recognition was caught in the crossfire this week when a man said it was passing off his work as AI-based machine translation.

The trouble began when a Japanese professor spoke in English at an AI conference in Shanghai. A screen behind him showed a simultaneous translation into Chinese that was credited to iFlytek, a specialist in speech recognition technology. The conference was also broadcast online, with the translated material conveyed in a synthesised voice.

The following day an interpreter called Bell Wang said iFlytek was implying that the translation was made directly by machine, when it was actually transcribed from work he and a colleague did. “It was an outright lie,” he fumed. “The day may come when AI can actually understand natural languages and we lose our jobs, but it’s definitely not now.”

iFlytek later agreed to credit the interpreters in future transcriptions. But it also put out a statement denying that it had tried to present human interpreting as the work of its AI engine.

The Taiwanese temptress

The Taiwanese temptress
Sep 21, 2018 (WiC 425)

When we think of espionage inevitably images from James Bond spring to mind: fast cars, gadgets and seduction. But aside from the seduction part, there wasn’t much in the way of James Bond glamour in Beijing’s recent exposure of a spy network from Taiwan that was targeting mainland students.

This was the revelation from the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council on Sunday, which said that a Taiwanese spy network had been “recklessly stepping up information collection and infiltration activities”. It asserted that a key tactic for turning mainland students studying in Taipei into informants was sex.

To prove its point a salacious example was revealed, the China Daily reports. This involved a Taiwanese spy calling herself Hsu Chia-ying who befriended an 18 year-old mainland student at a party in Taipei in 2011. They became lovers and initially after he returned to the mainland Hsu asked for basic information about his daily routine. But soon she was requesting more, and as a post-graduate working in a key state laboratory he had access to sensitive technical information. She subsequently blackmailed him and over three years he passed her 100 items of science and technology related information.

According to the China Daily report, the real name of the spy was Hsu Li-ting. She was not only active with the Taiwan Military Intelligence Bureau but she is 16 years older than the student she seduced. The public exposure of such activity comes at a time when relations between Beijing and Taipei have been increasingly strained, and signals a PR effort to warn the mainland’s youth of the dangers of studying at a Taiwanese university.

Volvo delays IPO journey

Volvo delays IPO journey
Sep 14, 2018 (WiC 424)

Volvo has a reputation for making some of the safest cars on the road. And it seems it wants to keep things as safe as possible for its shareholders too.

Volvo’s Chinese owner Geely was planning a stock market debut for the carmaker in Stockholm later this year at a valuation of at least $30 billion.

But it has hit the brakes on the IPO on concerns that Volvo’s shares might suffer from the market uncertainty triggered by the trade row between Beijing and Washington.

Volvo boss Hakan Samuelsson says the fear was that the share price could drop after the float. “The issues around trade are hard for us because they impact cars shipped between China and the US. It’s a huge drawback,” he told Bloomberg. “The risk is that these headwinds will increase.”

There were 45 auto sector IPOs around the world last year, raising nearly $7.8 billion, according to Dealogic data. This year only 12 have gone ahead, raising $1.8 billion.

Another reason for the delay is that Geely founder Li Shufu has decided that the brand needs to make further progress in the Chinese market, an insider at the company told Reuters. Geely bought Volvo from Ford eight years ago for $1.8 billion.