Luo Si, the chief scientist of natural language processing at the Chinese company's AI research group, called the milestone "a great honor," but also acknowledged that it will likely lead to a significant number of workers losing their jobs to machines.
Alibaba has already put the technology to work on Singles Day, the world's biggest shopping bonanza, by using computers to answer a large number of customer service questions.
The systems used Stanford University's SQuAD, a reading comprehension dataset consisting of questions based on a set of Wikipedia articles. The human score registered on SQuAD is 82.304. Alibaba's AI model finished the same set of questions with a score of 82.44, while Microsoft's AI posted an 82.65.
Alibaba's deep neural network model scored 82.44 on the test on January 11, narrowly beating the 82.304 scored by the human participants. A day later, Microsoft's AI software also beat the human score, with a result of 82.650.
Facebook, Tencent and Samsung have also previously submitted AI models to the Stanford project. AI is viewed as arguably the most important technology, capable of changing how humans live and work. Among its biggest supporters are Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who believes the technology could have significant impact in the health and automotive industries through advances in self-driving vehicles.
Artificial intelligence is already causing disruption in industries around the world — replacing workers with robots. China is making a big push to be a dominant force.
Beijing said it wants the country to be a leader in artificial intelligence by 2020. In July, government officials set out goals to build a domestic artificial intelligence industry worth nearly $150 billion in the next couple years.