This week, students across China will sit the gaokao—”life’s most important test”—a two-day college entrance exam that can arguably make or break one’s chances in life. A robot known as AI-MATHS will be joining them in taking a math exam on June 7, for the first time.
Since 2015, the robot AI-MATHS has been trained to tackle more than 10,000 math questions, according to Lin Hui, CEO of the company (link in Chinese) that developed the robot in partnership with Tsinghua University. One kind of question it may have to answer is the classic Chinese math “chicken-rabbit” problem, where one must calculate the number of chickens and rabbits in a cage if they are given the total number of legs and heads. To answer that question, AI-MATHS first needs to “know that chickens have two legs and rabbits have four,” Fu Hongguang, who led the development and research team of the machine under a project by the Ministry of Science and Technology, told state news outlet Xinhua.
In March, AI-MATHS scored 93 points in a mock math exam hosted in the southeastern city of Chengdu. 49 high-school students scored an average of 106 points out of 150 points, according to (link in video, Chinese) state broadcaster CCTV. Fu explained that the machine had failed to understand terms like “investment,” but he anticipates that AI-MATHS could score 110 points on the test this week.
As one of China’s most feared and revered institutions, some people are understandably nervous about robots beating humans at the gaokao—particularly as AI only recently beat a Chinese prodigy at the board game Go last week.
“After beating human beings at Go, AI is now planning to invade gaokao? Does it plan to leave a last bit of humble respect for humans?” commented (link in Chinese) one user on popular microblogging site Weibo. Others think that simply being good at maths doesn’t quite cut it, as AI will face limitations in other subjects, such as subjects in the arts and humanities. “If it can score 150 points in the Chinese exam, that would be impressive,” commented (link in Chinese) another.