August 23rd, the New Economy Salon Session V on “Does ‘Big-Data +Artificial Intelligence’ Support Planned Economy?” was held at Unirule Beijing Office. This salon was held by Unirule Urban Development Research Centre. Professor ZHANG Weiying from Peking University, Professor SHENG Hong from Unirule, Mr. YANG Peifang from China Information Economics Association, Professor ZHANG Shuguang from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, independent scholar Mr. RONG Jian, Professor FANG Dongxing from Shantou University, Professor CHEN Haowu from Peking University, independent scholar Mr. Ningyue, and Mr. ZHANG Zhenyi from the State Information Center attended this session and spoke on the topic.
Professor ZHANG Weiying first spoke on “The Big Data Can’t Replace Entrepreneurs”. He illustrated from four perspectives, namely, the nature of knowledge, entrepreneurship, the distinction between risks and uncertainty, and the fact that human behaviors are determined by ideas. Following this line of logics, the Big Data backed planned economy presents a paradox where the fact that a market economy is created by people’s dispersed information and voluntary actions and a planned economy dictates how people interacts with each other and there’s no room for the emergence of data at all. The technology of Big Data is only able to store the already existing information, instead of the knowledge that is yet to be created. Therefore, Big Data will not be able to inform entrepreneurs of potential innovation. If the government try to establish a planned economy on Big Data(including industrial policy), what’s in jeopardy is not only information and Big Data, but also entrepreneurship, innovation, and technological advances. The real world is full of uncertainty, and we need a sense of authentic creativity, wisdom, and entrepreneurship to counter the effects of uncertainty. In addition, human action is not only determined by interest, but also by ideas. With the same data, different ideas lead to different outcomes. At last, Professor ZHANG Weiying emphasized that in any market, experiences from the market does not enable the making of policies, because the policies can change the experiences and behaviors. The Big Data is a product of market competition. Using Big Data to create a planned economy in itself is ridiculous.
Professor FANG Xingdong thought with the rapid development of China’s Internet industry, something essential has been missing, the true spirit of Internet, i.e., openness, sharing, freedom, equal access to information, and innovation. Therefore, China’s Internet industry lacks a leading example in terms of values. Regarding the role of the government, Professor FANG thought there should be boundaries of actions from the government as well as operative scopes.
Professor RONG Jian thought the wishful planned economy based on Big Data and AI is more of a political digital empire. Therefore, it is of key interest as for who will be in charge. Different institutional arrangements lead to different outcomes. The utilization of the Big Data is certainly helpful for the economy to better function, and for the government to improve its services and governance.
Professor ZHANG Shuguang confirmed that Big Data and AAI could solve many problems, but they cannot solve the problem caused by the dispersed information in the market while facilitating the storage, transportation, and clarification of information. The critical issues lies in the source of information. If there’s no source of information, then there’s no need to store such information, which refutes the usefulness of Big Data, let alone a planned economy built upon it. AI can solve the problem as an instrument, but it cannot replace the logics of values. The formation of human society is a result of human interaction, which is beyond human reasoning. Therefore, it is merely wishful thinking to imagine a future human society order being built with Big Data and AI.
Professor YANG Peifang talked about going beyond planning and market, and creating a harmonized economy model in the future. A planned economy goes nowhere. Central planning and free market do go hand in hand with the production in the new information era. Therefore, we need to go beyond Keynesianism and Darwinism. The new economic era requires new economics theories, a new harmonized mutually-beneficial economic philosophy, and the harmonized economy is built upon socialized enterprises.
Professor SHENG Hong talked from the perspective of the technology and philosophy. The formation and development of human society relies on spontaneous order that formulated from human action. In return, human beings following this order. Human actions are influenced by free will, and there’s tremendous uncertainty and agnosticism, therefore, a planned economy is improbable from a philosophical point of view. He agreed with Professor ZHANG, and added that a planned economy is only able to make plans based on already known things, whereas innovation is about knowledge that is yet to be known. He emphasized that the combination of humans and AI can create better market subjects, which will facilitate the development of market order.
Professor CHEN Haowu thought the emergence of AI constitutes a social challenge and a theological challenge. We should embrace a positive attitude towards AI that can positively influence our society. However, he thought we should spoke loudly against the opinion that Big Data and AI could be used to create a planned economy.
Professor ZHANG Zhenyi thought AI is not able to bring about breakthrough innovations, but it is better in terms of incremental discoveries and deduction. When in possession of Big Data, human behaviors can be deducted by using AI, though not always accurate, which asks for more intellectual improvement. He thought we should spare more attention to the relation between humans and AI, especially in terms of the decision making of AI.
Professor Ningyue thought Big Data is more about dispersed knowledge that decentralized and de facto in the past, instead of forward looking. In contrast, human brains and entrepreneurs make more forward looking decisions. He did not dismiss the possibility of AI’s potential in making forward looking decisions.