Asia may have missed the chance to dominate the current internet age, but Alibaba Group executive chairman Jack Ma (pic) believes the vast region’s increasingly wired societies must not squander the “chance to win” in a new era where superiority in building data-driven machines will define success. After an era in which the internet powered the global economy, landmark developments in areas like machine learning have made data the centre of the technology world, Ma told a business conference in Malaysia. Machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence – the idea that computers can be programmed to emulate sentient behaviour.
“In Asia we are now moving from the IT time to the DT time. Data Time,” said Ma. “With the IT time, Asia lost our chance. We don’t have an IBM, we don’t have a Microsoft, we don’t have Cisco, we don’t have an Intel. But on the DT time, we have a chance to win,” he said.
“Look at Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. So many farmers are using mobile phones. If we can use the mobile technology to collect data, things are going to change.” Speaking to a full house at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, Ma said “these changes are going to come faster than you thought”.
The 52-year-old founder of the Chinese e-commerce giant said the technology evolution was going so fast that data analysts who are currently buoyed by the notion that they picked the right field may find themselves disappointed. “I am going to tell you there is going to be no data analysis in the next 10 years. The machines can do a much better job than you are,” he said. “Machines are going to be more powerful and smarter than people…in 30 years, the best CEO of the year or the cover man of Time Magazine will be a machine.
But culture and values will set human beings apart in the machine era, he said. “Imagination, creativity and teamwork. These are the things we should teach our kids,” Ma said. “If we are not going to change our education system, our kids are going to complain, and it’s not their fault. It’s our fault.”