Alibaba to invest $15 billion in cutting edge technology

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Alibaba has called its new initiative “DAMO Academy” standing for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook. Research labs will be created not only in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Hangzhou but in San Mateo and Bellevue in the United States. Other cities in which there will be new facilities include Moscow in Russia, Tel Aviv in Israel, and Singapore, Malaysia. All the facilities will be overseen by an advisory board of the best researchers and professors from leading global universities including the MIT in the US. The new units will explore developing technologies relating to data intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), quantum computing, and human-machine interacting. Jeff Zang, Alibaba’s chief technology officer said: “We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end-users and businesses everywhere.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is a big supporter of AI and claims it could be used to build safer cars and better detect diseases. However others such as Elon Musk of Tesla suggest that government regulation of research is needed to ensure that research does not threaten humanity. Other critics such as John Giannandrea AI chief at Google are concerned about biased algorithms used in AI as discussed in a recent Digital Journal article.

The DAMO Academy project is just part of a much broader plan that would see Alibaba serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years the company maintains. The company is busy trying to entice US small businesses to sell their goods to its huge Chinese market of 443 million customers.

As of last April, Alibaba was the world’s largest retailer surpassing Walmart. It operates in more than 200 countries. It is also one of the largest internet companies. Since 2015 its online sales and profits have surpassed those of Walmart, Amazon, and eBay combined. It is expanding quickly into the media industry. As of August this year, Alibaba has over 529 million mobile users across its platforms. It also hosts a digital distribution service 9Apps that hosts a huge amount of content plus apps for downloads. As of this October, the market cap of Alibaba was $463 billion making it one of the top ten most valuable companies in the world.

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