Generative AI History: Jockeying for Dominance

The Gist

  • Global AI race intensifies. Countries worldwide, led by the US and closely followed by China, are heavily investing in AI, with nations like Singapore, Canada, South Korea and Israel making significant advancements. 
  • Tech giants’ role. Major US companies like Microsoft, Alphabet/Google and OpenAI have been at the forefront of generative AI innovations. Microsoft’s transformation under Satya Nadella and its partnership with OpenAI exemplify its AI leadership. Meanwhile, Google’s advancements with LaMDA and PaLM models showcase its commitment to staying competitive in the AI landscape.
  • Emergence & evolution of AI startups. The AI startup ecosystem is booming, with companies like Frame AI, Jasper, Tome and Galileo AI introducing innovative AI-driven solutions. These startups are reshaping industries, from customer feedback to content creation, indicating a vibrant future for generative AI applications.

In this third part of our four-part generative AI history series, we’ll look at how the major players are emerging in the global AI race. While the US currently dominates, we have seen new leaders quickly emerge. China and other nations are investing heavily as they realize the stakes and rewards are very high for AI leadership. We are beginning a new type of cold war.

Inside CMSWire’s Generative AI History Series

Generative AI History: Countries Across the Globe Have Been Jockeying for AI Dominance for Years

Despite the recent surge in Generative AI platforms, the global AI race has been raging for many years now. Countries across the globe are pouring huge investments into AI and vying for global leadership positions.

US Dominance

The US continues to retain a dominant position in AI — with China close behind. However, if you take a look at generative AI history, the rest of the field has been quite volatile over the past several years. For instance, the UK shifted from third place in 2020 to fourth place in 2021. It was displaced by Singapore which saw significant growth over the past few years moving from 10th place up to sixth in 2021. Other countries like Canada, South Korea, Israel, Germany, Switzerland and Finland are also making significant strides in AI technology and currently round out the top 10 countries.  

Not surprisingly, the top companies throughout generative AI history — including Microsoft, Alphabet/Google, OpenAI, Nvidia, Adobe, Amazon, Facebook/Meta, Tesla and IBM — are concentrated in the United States. These large tech giants will continue to lead innovation with significant R&D investments in AI. We are likely to see cycles where each of these players leapfrog each other’s dominance in generative AI.

China Close Behind

China has its own set of tech giants in the AI space. Baidu, China’s largest search engine, has entered the AI race with its ChatGPT equivalent Ernie Bot. Alibaba is in the internal testing stage of developing its own ChatGPT-style chatbot.

JD, an ecommerce company, is launching ChatJD. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has initiated research and development into generative AI tools through its AI Lab. Telecommunications provider Huawei has recently patented technology similar to ChatGPT, that would analyze existing libraries of data to generate responses to user questions.

The speed at which China’s generative AI boom continues will largely depend on the government’s regulation of AI technology. Initial reports say the interim regulations due to be put into effect in August were far less onerous than measures outlined in the April draft. This could be a sign that China believes winning the global AI race is critical for its economy and global positioning.

Related Article: It’s Not Bert, It’s ERNIE: Baidu Unleashes Rival to ChatGPT

An Unlikely New Era in Generative AI History for Microsoft 

If you take a look at generative AI history, Microsoft’s brand has not always been synonymous with AI.

For many years Microsoft was caught up in the operating system and desktop application race that it dominated so well, it brought much scrutiny from the government over monopolistic practices. However, as the cloud, open source and platforms era began to transform the industry, Microsoft looked out of place. If it wanted to survive, it needed a massive paradigm shift.

The glass and steel facade of the Microsoft building in Issy-les-Moulineaux, France with greenery in front along with a sign bearing the Microsoft name and logo of four squards in pimary colors of red, blue, yellow and green, in piece documenting generative AI history.
Microsoft’s products have a longhistory with generative AI. HJBC on Adobe Stock Photos

A Transformation Under Satya Nadella 

In 2014, Satya Nadella took the helm as CEO (only the third CEO in the company’s 40-year history) to begin one of the tech industry’s greatest transformations. He quickly reoriented the company to go on the offense in new emerging areas of technology such as cloud computing and AI and empowered every person to explore new opportunities. This set the course for making generative AI history.

He created a startup atmosphere and sponsored some of the world’s largest private hackathons. This resulted in a rebirth of Microsoft and the launch of new, innovative platforms such as Azure that would quickly become the foundation of the company’s product strategy moving forward.

Bill Gates & His AI Ambition

It’s also easy to forget another chapter of generative AI history — Bill Gates created Microsoft Research 25 years ago with the ambition of creating general AI-based computing, i.e., computers that could interact with humans with the ability to see, hear and speak. The current team of more than 1,000 highly decorated experts in computer science, physics, engineering and mathematics continues to provide significant innovation capacity, especially around AI.

Smart acquisitions and partnerships throughout generative AI history have been instrumental to Microsoft’s transformation strategy. Instead of the previous legacy acquisitions like Nokia’s smartphone division, Microsoft focused on technical pioneers such as the workplace social media platform LinkedIn, the developer platform GitHub and the monster video game deal with Activision Blizzard.

Microsoft quickly capitalized on these acquisitions. Github’s Copilot tool, which uses AI to suggest code fragments to developers, was launched in an open marketplace in October 2021 and quickly attracted over 10,000 companies. 

Microsoft & OpenAI

Microsoft also established a long-term multiyear partnership with OpenAI, which included multibillion dollar investments to accelerate AI breakthroughs. This creates a powerful force, with Microsoft and OpenAI both working in the artificial intelligence space to quickly innovate and take product to market.

Microsoft has also done an incredible job in infusing AI into its entire product line to provide intelligent experiences every day in Bing Search, Windows, Xbox, Microsoft 365, Teams, Dynamics 365 and many other products.

This has culminated in Microsoft emerging as one of the early leaders in the AI race.

Related Article: Say Goodbye to the Waitlist: Microsoft Bing Is Enhanced and Fully Open

Google Generative AI History: Getting Back Into the Game

Google has a long generative AI history dating back to 2014 when it acquired DeepMind for $500 million to complement the AI research expertise in Google Brain. DeepMind was famously responsible for creating the computer systems that beat top-ranked players of the Chinese board game Go.

A sign with the Google Name and Logo in Blue, Red, Yellow and Green with headquarters building and trees visible in the background in story about generative AI history.
Google has been in the long-game when it comes to generative AI history.Picturellarious on Adobe Stock Photos

Google & DeepMind

By combining the expertise of Google Brain and DeepMind, Google’s goal was to streamline its AI research efforts and avoid duplication of work. In 2015, RankBrain was now being used in Google Search to provide more relevant search results for users and avoid the gaming of search rankings. In 2017, the Google AI division was formed that pioneered many programs such as Google Brain, Tensor Flow, AlphaGo, Transformers, and more recently LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications).

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