China has announced plans to create an unmanned underwater AI sea base named Hades for science and defense operations in the South China Sea and "might become the first artificial intelligence colony on Earth", according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The South China Sea, according to SCMP, is the most disputed waterway on the planet, "with seven territories making conflicting claims over it".
Hades was named after the underworld god from Greek mythology and launched from Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Sciences by Chinese president Xi Jinping. Xi supported scientists in pushing the boundaries of innovation saying, "there is no road in the deep sea, we do not need to chase [after other countries], we are the road".
According to the report, the sea base, a self-contained lab, will deploy robotic submarines to survey sea beds, record life forms for cataloging and collect mineral samples which it will then "analyze and send reports to the surface". The station will need to be connected to a ship or platform for power and communication but will able to carry out autonomous missions with its "brain" and sensors.
"China and the Philippines should sit down and discuss it. A tsunami [warning] is a big selling point. Data collected by the station would benefit all countries in the region. It could save many lives," commented Professor Yan Pin, a researcher at the Key Laboratory of Ocean and Marginal Sea Geology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou.
The development of the sea base will need to meet the set requirements to ensure the sustainability and stability of the station. "It must be sufficiently deep, with abundant geological activities for scientific studies but not too active or the base could be destroyed by a volcano eruption and landslide," SCMP reported.
However, some scientists are weary of challenges that could arise from politics and technology, SCMP stated.
The Hadal zone, the deepest marine habitat on Earth, will be home to the new base. However, it will come with a hefty price tag, according to scientists involved and will allegedly cost Chinese taxpayers 1.1bn yuan ($160m).