Going All In: A $15 Billion Project
To advance research and development on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and the Internet of Things, Alibaba is dedicating $15 billion in funding over the next three years to create the next generation of such technology.
As reported by Bloomberg, the company shared its plans in an emailed statement, shortly after Chief Technical Officer Jeff Zhang made the announcement at the company's Computing Conference 2017 in Hangzhou, China. This is the beginning of its global research program, now known as Alibaba DAMO Academy — "DAMO" an acronym for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook.
As part of the program, Alibaba intends to build seven new R&D labs across the U.S., Russia, China, Israel, and Singapore. Over 100 scientists worldwide who specialize in different aspects of AI, quantum computing, and the IoT will also be hired.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Alibaba Chief Technical Officer Jeff Zhang said the new labs will go a long way to "help solve issues that Alibaba is currently facing across its business lines. It will also be at the forefront of developing next-generation technology.”
More Than Labs and Scientists
Alongside new labs, Alibaba's multi-billion dollar investment will also go towards funding various collaborations with universities, with the University of California at Berkeley already on board. Additionally, the company has tapped a number of professors from the likes of Princeton and Harvard to sit on an advisory board.
Alibaba's increased focus on AI and quantum computing is a significant one, with both expected to dramatically change the world. The company already has a "smart warehouse" run by 60 robots, which saw an productivity increase 300 percent. That percentage can only rise if the company's program is a success, though it does raise some concerns about automation and its impact on jobs.
Fortunately, according to CNBC, the company has a "commitment to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years." We'll have to wait and see what Alibaba comes up with in the coming years, but it's a clear sign it's prepared to see this through, and has the resources necessary to move the world forward.