China's "Brightest Children" Being Recruited For AI Arms Race With The U.S.

News out of China's defense tech industry is getting creepier by the month. If the recently unveiled Chinese produced experimental "Laser AK-47" which can supposedly melt a person's skin from nearly a kilometer away wasn't bizarre enough, it now appears Beijing is about to turn Orson Scott Card's sci-fi classic Ender's Game into real life. 

A Chinese weapons research institute is now recruiting children to train them from a young age to become China’s future AI weapons developers and experts. The new program involves 27 boys and four girls all 18 and under who were drawn from a pool of over 5,000 applicants to enter a comprehensive “experimental program for intelligent weapons systems” at the Beijing Institute of Technology (BIT), according the institute's website. 

Image via BIT/SCMP

The idea is that just as a future olympic gymnasts begin training in China's gyms from the time they're toddlers, so should a vanguard of future weapons technology experts start from a young age. The program eventually places the youth in a defense laboratory to gain "hands-on experience" and advanced knowledge that China hopes will allow its future generations to outpace the United States in defense and AI technology. 

If the thought of children studying, handling, operating and developing the most advanced weapons systems and defense research on earth sounds too over the top to be true, here's the broad description of the newly implemented program from the initial South China Morning Post report

Each student will be mentored by two senior weapons scientists, one from an academic background and the other from the defense industry, according to the program’s brochure.

After completing a short program of course work in the first semester, the students will be asked to choose a specialty field, such as mechanical engineering, electronics or overall weapon design. They will then be assigned to a relevant defense laboratory where they will be able to develop their skills through hands-on experience.

The initial entry mentoring phase is a four year program, according to the BIT, which is among China's top weapons research institute, working with the nation's top contractors. 

A BIT professor, who described the nature of the project as "sensitive" and asked not to be named, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP), “These kids are all exceptionally bright, but being bright is not enough.” The professor, who was involved in the screening process, said further,  “We are looking for other qualities such as creative thinking, willingness to fight, a persistence when facing challenges.”

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