Alibaba Group An­nounces New Re­search In­sti­tute

Trillions - - In this Issue -

The mas­sive Alibaba Group, best known for its e-com­merce busi­ness, an­nounced last month that it is set­ting up a new re­search in­sti­tute ded­i­cated to ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment.

The new or­ga­ni­za­tion, an­nounced at this year’s “The Com­put­ing Con­fer­ence 2017,” held in Hangzhou, China, will op­er­ate un­der the name “the DAMO Acad­emy.” (“DAMO” stands for “dis­cov­ery, ad­ven­ture, mo­men­tum and out­look.”) It will be fo­cused on ad­vanced com­puter tech­nolo­gies such as quan­tum com­put­ing, ma­chine learn­ing, ba­sic al­go­rithms and net­work se­cu­rity.

The DAMO Acad­emy launches with a com­mit­ment by the Alibaba Group to in­vest more than 100 bil­lion yuan (about $15 bil­lion U.S.) in the or­ga­ni­za­tion over the next three years. It has also al­ready set up part­ner­ships with more than 200 re­search in­sti­tutes and uni­ver­si­ties and has fur­ther started cre­at­ing re­mote branches in Europe, Asia and the United States. Th­ese part­ner­ships should pro­vide the DAMO Group with ac­cess to new tech­nolo­gies and re­search break­throughs with­out nec­es­sar­ily hav­ing to build up all the req­ui­site tal­ent ini­tially from within DAMO or from China.

Dur­ing “The Com­put­ing Con­fer­ence 2017” event, Jean­nette M. Wing, di­rec­tor of the Data Sci­ence In­sti­tute at Columbia Univer­sity, and Michael I. Jor­dan, a sci­en­tist in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, were pub­licly in­tro­duced for the first time as mem­bers of the DAMO aca­demic ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

This is just one of sev­eral en­ter­prises of this kind re­cently launched by major Chi­nese tech firms. Baidu, the Chi­nese search en­gine gi­ant, re­cently set up a re­search lab­o­ra­tory in Sil­i­con Val­ley ded­i­cated to AI plus the currently “hot” fields of big data and deep learn­ing. Ten­cent, the games provider, video pro­grams provider and maker of pop­u­lar global chat plat­form Wechat, is currently in the process of es­tab­lish­ing a Seat­tle-based AI re­search lab. Huawei, best known for telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions and its rapidly-ris­ing pro­file as one of the largest smart­phone man­u­fac­tur­ers in the world, also re­cently joined this kind of work, with a $1 mil­lion re­search part­ner­ship with UC Berke­ley on AI.

The Alibaba Group’s $15 bil­lion of fund­ing may be­come the telling dif­fer­ence for this new ven­ture, since that in­vest­ment is much higher than what any of th­ese other Chi­nese tech com­pa­nies have put into their ven­tures. Ac­cord­ing to founder Jack Ma, Alibaba’s am­bi­tions in­clude a plan run­ning more than 80 years from now. Ma also said the DAMO Acad­emy is in­tended to out­last the Alibaba Group’s cur­rent e-com­merce en­ter­prises.

Many are won­der­ing if the re­search and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped by the DAMO Acad­emy will pri­mar­ily ben­e­fit China and fuel its con­tin­ued rise to power at the ex­pense of the rest of the world or will it ben­e­fit all

of hu­man­ity.

How many aca­demics and sci­en­tists out­side of China could be help­ing to en­sure their na­tion’s own fu­ture sub­ju­ga­tion?

Too eas­ily has the world for­got­ten what hap­pened and is still hap­pen­ing to Ti­bet. Few seem to care about China’s land grab in the South China Sea or its on­go­ing in­cur­sion into Bhutan’s Dok­lam plateau.

$15 bil­lion in re­search may give Alibaba some im­mense tech­no­log­i­cal power. Can any­one en­sure that the power won't be mis­used? Do we have any choice?

As the U.S. and other western coun­tries fall fur­ther be­hind in re­search and sci­en­tific in­no­va­tion, multi­na­tional mega-tech-corps are fill­ing the void and be­com­ing a force unto them­selves.

Some of th­ese huge com­pa­nies just fo­cus on amass­ing ever more money with­out any idea of what do with it all, like Ap­ple.

Google has in­vested in a wide ar­ray of en­deav­ors to ben­e­fit hu­man­ity while also be­com­ing deeply en­trenched in an elite power struc­ture and us­ing its search en­gine to shape the thoughts and be­liefs of a vast por­tion of hu­man­ity by sup­press­ing in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ism and pro­mot­ing an ul­ti­mately de­struc­tive agenda. It is also pro­mot­ing tran­shu­man­ism and re­defin­ing what it means to be hu­man. By in­vest­ing vast re­sources into AI, the day when our tech­nol­ogy sur­passes us and turns against us may ar­rive much sooner than tech­nol­o­gist fear.

Wouldn't it be bet­ter for Jack Ma to in­vest a big por­tion of his vast wealth into sav­ing our planet and a por­tion of hu­man­ity from the cer­tain de­struc­tion we keep en­sur­ing?

Im­age by Com­put­er­izer

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.