The 2017 Computing Conference was held in Hangzhou on 11th October. At the conference, Alibaba announced the set up of DAMO Academy, a laboratory which is to explore the future of science and technology, and the investment RMB100 billion on research extending from basic science to disruptive technological innovation. Jack Ma, the chairman of Alibaba's board of directors, talked about the reason for establishing the “DAMO Academy” and put forward three expectations for this institution: it must live longer than Alibaba; it must serve a worldwide population of at least 2 billion; it must solve future problems with technology.
He believes that social responsibility is the most important motivation for Alibaba to explore the frontier of science and technology. “Alibaba is now beyond an ordinary commercial company so we will undoubtedly shoulder the enormous responsibility assigned to us by our country and the present age. Alibaba must be a company helping to create the future and serving as an engine of innovation for the society and even the world,” he said.
Jack Ma had been pondering for a long time before he decided to establish the DAMO Academy. Throughout all the years of endeavour in technological innovations, Alibaba has always regarded “solving social problems” as its guiding principle. Alibaba is already a leading worldwide internet enterprise, but now it needs to step onto a higher level in order to find more practical ways to help address the world’s economic and social issues.
Alibaba’s goal for the next two decades is to become the world’s fifth largest economy whilst creating one hundred million jobs, serving two billion people all over the world and generating profits for ten million enterprises. To reach this goal, in Jack Ma’s opinion, lots of barriers have to be removed and that’s why DAMO Academy came into being. It will follow the basic principle of “research for solving the problems with profit and fun”. Emphasising traditional Chinese beliefs, DAMO is meant to represent the highest martial arts institution, so Alibaba named its scientific research laboratory DAMO Academy, hoping to benefit both humans and the societies they live in. DAMO Academy is a universal laboratory that is expected to breed a more inclusive, sustainable and healthy global economy.
Jack Ma explained why he chose the name of DAMO Academy: “We don’t have to label it research institute or laboratory. Why can’t we just create our own name? Alibaba can learn from IBM; learn from Microsoft or Bell Lab. And it can learn from the history and evolution of technology. But eventually we will have to find our way. The current sufficient supply of human resources and capital is making it possible for China to perform outstandingly in the field of technology. We are confident that DAMO Academy will exceed Intel, Microsoft and IBM, because it was born with the advantages that this 21st century offered. Jack Ma considers the “DAMO Academy” as the best thing Alibaba leaves to the world. He wishes that DAMO Academy will continue to exist even if Alibaba were to die out one day.
According to the name list that Alibaba had released, the first members of the Academic Committee are three academicians from China and five from America as well as Michael I. Jordan, a leading master in artificial intelligence, Li Kai, expert in distributed computing and George M. Church, head of the Human Genome Project.
More than 13 top scientists were invited to a forum to talk with Jack Ma on the day before DAMO Academy was officially opened, including Yao Qizhi, the only Turing Award winner in China, Pan Jianwei, pioneer in quantum mechanics, Zhou Yizhen, professor at Columbia University, who defines the computational computing, and Tang Xiaoou, referred to as the trailblazer of facial recognition technology. Extensive areas, such as quantum computing, machine learning, basic algorithms, web security, visual computing, natural language processing, new-generation human-computer interaction, chip and sensor technology and embedded systems will all be covered in DAMO Academy’s further researches.
On 25th September 2017, in the Gateway 2017 held in Toronto, Jack Ma gave an impressive speech, introducing the rapidly-developing Chinese market and demonstrating how the internet was bringing potent...
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