From December 3-5 an all-star cast of global and Chinese tech executives convened in the scenic water town of Wuzhen in east China, exchanging views on the future development of the internet at the World Internet Conference. The most mentioned keyword for this year’s state-run summit unsurprisingly went to artificial intelligence, and here are highlights of what China’s three preeminent tech entrepreneurs have said about it:
Jack Ma, Alibaba
In the next 30 years, data will become the means of production, and algorithm the productivity, Jack Ma reckons. He also believes that humans can control machines, because humans have souls, faith, values, and unique creativity, while machines lack those.
The 53-year-old Chinese billionaire previously said that what Chinese people need in the future is health and happiness, which has become a new investing theme for Alibaba with a series of endeavors in healthcare and entertainment businesses.
Pony Ma, Tencent
In the past year, Tencent has been upping its ante in new technologies and holding onto an AI strategy—from setting up overseas labs, applying AI to medical science such as medical imaging, computer-assisted diagnosis, treatment for diabetes and lung cancer, and collaborating with hospitals.
Pony Ma also stresses the importance of reaching synergies in managing information and cybersecurity. Following the state media’s critique of Tencent’s blockbuster mobile game this year, the social media and gaming giant rolled out a parental-control platform that makes it easier for parents to limit children’s play time.
Robin Li, Baidu
In the last decade or so, the growth of the internet has been fueled by three factors, says Robin Li, and they are: The expansion of internet user base, increase in internet use time, and accumulation of online information. As the demographic dividend diminishes in China’s internet market, AI will be the new propeller for growth, and it depends on three things: algorithm, computing capacity, and data.
Baidu, having lost its luster during China’s mobile internet era, is betting its future on AI and calling itself an “AI” company. Although the search engine giant still relies heavily on advertising revenues, its AI story has so far painted a rosy story for some Wall Street financiers.