Jack Ma And Robin Li Are Competing To Be The Leader In AI

摘要: When asked if AI would pose a threat to the human civilization, Jack Ma and Li Yanhong both expressed a positive attitude.

(Chinese Version)

Without a doubt, the biggest tech event lately must have been the Big Data Expo in Guiyang province, which the government and industry leaders had attended.

This year the spotlight was still on BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent), with a focus that’s slightly different. It’s interesting that AI was the dominant topic at the Big Data Expo, which, as the name suggests, is about big data. This year Tencent’s Pony Ma couldn’t make it to the expo, but Tencent had spent greats efforts in promoting its products as Tencent Cloud’s logo and advertisements were all over the venue. Jack Ma and Li Yanhong on the other hand also presented their killer cards in the afternoon, voicing out their opinions on intelligence, making the secret AI war an incredible scene at the expo.

It’s worth noting that Jack Ma held a Machine Intelligence Summit in the afternoon on the opening day, while Li Yanhong was holding an AI-themed summit. The two summits were held by these two industry leaders separately and simultaneously. Jack Ma invited the renowned host Kang Hui from China’s state television network CCTV to host the event while Li Yanhong invited Yang Lan, a famous former host from CCTV.

Jack Ma invited a group of influential guests to his event, including Zhao Guang, CEO of Haier Digital, researcher of Chinese Academy of Sciences One Hundred Research Project, and former partner at Gartner, Jerry Kaplan, visiting professor of Stanford University and founders of multiple companies, Steve Hoffman, CEO and founder of an American international incubator, Wang Jian, member of Alibaba’s technology committee, E Weinan, president of Beijing Big Data Research Institute and professors at Peking University and Princeton University, and guest questioner Hu Yu, who is the CEO of Iflytek, as well as Chen Zhikuan, president and co-CEO of Synopsys etc.

Robin Li also invited many prestigious guests, including Qualcomm Global’s president Derek Aberle, Microsoft Global’s experienced VP, Microsoft Asia’s Internet Engineering Institute’s president, and Microsoft Asia Pacific R&D Group’s CTO Wang Yongdong, Dell Global’s VP and Dell Greater China’s Huang Chenhong, IBM China’s research center president and IBM Greater China’s CTO Shen Xiaowei, LinkedIn Global’s VP and LinkedIn China’s president Shen Boyang etc.

Judging from the guest list, it’s apparent that the pair had invested lots of efforts in the event. However, the media and audience’s attention was still mainly on Jack Ma as he always made entertaining comments.
From at-scene observation, Jack Ma and Robin Li’s opinions sometimes attacked each other, and sometimes showed consensus as well.

The core of the competition lies in:

Jack Ma believes that we are in a data-dominated era, and that data generate AI. In contrast to that, Li Yanhong advocates that technological innovation should be the development focus despite the importance of data.

On the Machine Intelligence Summit, Jack Ma stated that Chinese companies shouldn’t focus on producing applications like AlphaGo, sparking a great controversy, as Baidu and Tencent are developing applications similar to AlphaGo.

According to Jack Ma, playing Go with an AI strips the entertainment of the game from us. “AI would have prepared for the upcoming three hundred moves when you only figure out the next three moves. Machines can’t think independently, they don’t make mistakes,” Jack Ma said.

Alibaba was the first enterprise to bring forth the concept of DT data era. Jack Ma emphasized in his speech that data would become the main source of energy, and that without data, innovations would be empty shells.

Robin Li on the other hand believes that data is the energy and fuel in the new era, but what truly pushes the civilization forward is technology and innovation. “The most valuable thing in the industrial age wasn’t coal, but technologies like the steam engine,” he illustrated his point with an example.

It’s apparent that the pair had shown two very different mindsets, secretly competing with each other. They both are raising the awareness of the importance of the future smart era in public, trying to become the leader in the AI sector in China.

When asked if AI would pose a threat to the human civilization, Jack Ma and Robin Li both expressed a positive attitude. “Take the nuclear warhead as an example,” Li said. “Before we could make a nuclear warhead, humans had fought countless wars. Many people believed that the concept of the nuclear warhead would threaten the existence of humans. However, since the invention of nuclear warheads, we haven’t had any major war. That’s because we found a way to control risks.” In Robin's opinion, AI is similar, that it could bring positive influence while the negative impact can be controlled.

On Jack Ma’s stage, the guests mainly talked about the difference between AI and intelligent machines. Jack Ma had previously brought up a few opinions on smart machines on the IT Summit, saying that in the past we used human labor as machines, and that in the future we would treat machines like humans. “It’s not a great thing to brag about when machines can do the stuff humans can do. It’s only extraordinary when machines can do something humans can’t pull off,” Jack Ma said. “Machines will become humans’ best partners, instead of rivals.” In some way, Jack Ma denies the AI threat theory.

On the stage of Robin Li's event, thought leaders from Qualcomm, Microsoft, Dell and IBM etc. all illustrated practical cases in which AI was implemented to help people at work and in life. “20 years ago AI defeated the world champion of international chess. In 2011, Watson defeated the human champion of Q&A competition. And now, IBM is focusing on fusing AI with industries, using AI to solve issues in healthcare, education, environment, finance, retailing and manufacturing etc.,” Shen Xiaowei said.

Recently, IBM developed a diagnosis support system designed to target type-two diabetes, utilizing clinical instruction knowledge and data from clinical trials to recommend solutions for doctors. At present, this technology is available in 19 community health centers in a city in south China, benefitting 6,000 patients. This piece of technology equips every community doctor with a personal expert assistant.

When the opportunities and potential of data and technology innovation are presented, Jack Ma and Li Yanhong both believe it’s necessary to change the mindset and adapt to changes. Jack Ma once again brought up the Red Flag Act from UK, which was used by the cart drivers in the past to limit the development of automobiles, eventually making UK lag behind Germany, France and the U.S. in terms of automobile development. Li Yanhong also put a great emphasis on AI mindset. In simple words, the era of AI brings a non-linear thinking, which is very different from the conventional mindset.

“Technological revolution will bring forth new possibilities, which are hard to see in the past. We have to prepare for the future,” Li Yanhong said, a statement that Jack Ma might probably agree with.

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The article is published with authorization from the author @Wu Ningchuan, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]

Translated by Garrett Lee (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.

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