Friday, November 04, 2005

More on the Rise of Chinese Technology

To gain an edge technologically, you need proficiency and creativity. With the rise of the East's Academic Institutions (see my entry on outsourcing science), will the East be able to generate NEW technology? Many have argued "No", but I think that this is mostly Western prejudice. Just look at the innovation coming out of Japan over the past 50 years. From an OpEd by Thomas Friedman in today's NYTimes:
There is a lot of truth to that. Even the Chinese will tell you that they've been good at making the next new thing, and copying the next new thing, but not imagining the next new thing. That may be about to change.


Check out Microsoft Research Asia, the research center Bill Gates set up in Beijing to draw on Chinese brainpower. In 1998, Microsoft gave IQ tests to some 2,000 top Chinese engineers and scientists and hired 20. Today it has 200 full-time Chinese researchers. Harry Shum, a Carnegie Mellon-trained computer engineer who runs the lab, has a very clear view of what Chinese innovators can do, given the right environment. The Siggraph convention is the premier global conference for computer graphics and interactive technologies. At Siggraph 2005, 98 papers were published from research institutes all over the world.

Nine of them - almost 10 percent - came from Microsoft's Chinese research center, beating out M.I.T. and Stanford. Dr. Shum said: "In 1999 we had one paper published. In 2000, we had one. In 2001, we had two. In 2002, we had four. In 2003 we had three. In 2004, we had five, and this year we are very lucky to have nine." Do you see a pattern?

In addition, Microsoft Beijing has contributed more than 100 new technologies for current Microsoft products - from the Xbox to Windows. That's a huge leap in seven years, although, outside the hothouses like Microsoft, China still has a way to go.


[Dr. Shum] "I learned mostly about how to do research right at Carnegie Mellon. ... Before you create anything new, you need to understand what is already there. Once you have this foundation, being creative can be trainable. China is building that foundation. So very soon, in 10 or 20 years, you will see a flood of top-quality research papers from China."

So it would seem that China is on the rise. (Any news from India now?)