Mark Zuckerberg’s Asia trip is all about making AI friends

Mark Zuckerberg’s Asia trip is all about making AI friends
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Mark Zuckerberg is meeting key political and business leaders during his Asia tour.

  • Mark Zuckerberg isn’t just in Asia to enjoy Japanese McDonald’s and hit the ski slopes.
  • The Meta chief is meeting a bunch of political and business leaders too.
  • The meetings will put Meta’s AI and mixed reality ambitions front and center as competition grows.

Mark Zuckerberg is having a heck of a time with side quests in Japan.

Since landing there last week, the Meta CEO has enjoyed some family downtime skiing, visited sword master Akihira Kokaji to make a katana, and stopped by a McDonald’s for local specials like the Ebi shrimp burger (he gives it a 10 out of 10).

Make no mistake about it though: Zuckerberg’s main quest this trip is all about business.

The billionaire is going on the offensive this week as he looks to strengthen ties with leaders in the wider Asia region in a bid to fortify Meta’s AI and mixed reality ambitions in the face of regulatory and competitive threats.

Taking matters into his own hands

High on the agenda for Zuckerberg is a series of meetings with politicians.

On Tuesday, he met with Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss AI, The Japan Times reported, following in the footsteps of rival AI chief Sam Altman, who met Kishida and several other political leaders last year.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at 2021 press conference
Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“We had a good productive conversation about AI and the future of technology, and I’m really excited for the work that is happening here in Japan,” Zuckerberg said in comments to Japanese media after the meeting.

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South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol is also on the schedule, Bloomberg reported. Zuckerberg has a major incentive to foster a good relationship with these leaders.

They will play a vital role alongside their international peers in determining how exactly AI should be regulated. That’s amid fears that the technology could cause harm by helping facilitate illegal activity like fraud or accelerating the spread of misinformation.

That’s a particular concern for leaders as 2024 sets the stage for the biggest election year in history. OpenAI’s Altman spoke at length about AI’s impact on elections at the World Economic Forum in Davos last month. South Korea will be considering it too with an election due in April.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman
OpenAI CEO Sam Altman spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Zuckerberg will have an extra issue to address on safety given his company’s emphasis on open-source AI. Open-source models like Llama 2 risk being particularly restricted by regulators over concerns that the technology is easier to weaponize by bad actors.

The likes of Meta’s AI chief Yann LeCun have pushed back on suggestions that open-source AI is dangerous because the sheer volume of resources any bad actor would need to use an AI model maliciously makes it highly untenable.

Zuckerberg will want to convince political leaders of that too: his company is going all in on AI, having made it the biggest investment of 2023.

Meta’s mission to build business

Politicians won’t be the only thing on Zuckerberg’s mind on his Asian trip. Business leaders are on the agenda too as some of Meta’s most important products face fresh challenges.

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Meta’s line of mixed reality headsets, the Quests, finally face a formidable foe following Apple’s release of the Vision Pro this month.

Meta Quest Pro
Meta Quest Pro.

Zuckerberg has not been shy in his views about the competition, posting a teardown video to Instagram in which he laid into the Vision Pro for being pricey and uncomfortable, while claiming the “Quest is better for the vast majority of things that people use mixed reality for.”

Though the Vision Pro isn’t expected to generate huge revenues for Apple from the get-go, Zuckerberg will want to see off the threat as quickly as he can.

That’s why he’s expected to meet the CEO of LG Electronics in Seoul to discuss partnerships on headsets, per local reports.

Bloomberg also reported that Zuckerberg is preparing to meet Samsung chief Jay Y. Lee, whose company plays a vital role in manufacturing AI chips. The Meta chief is seeking to stockpile 600,000 AI chips by the end of the year.

It all looks more like a working holiday than a vacation for Zuckerberg.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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