Turn Big Data Into an Energy Source for Mankind’s Future, Jack Ma Says

Jack Ma / Yicai

2017-05-12

(Yicai Global) May 12 -- Jack Ma’s new book titled Jack Ma: The Future Has Come has been published recently with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s [NYSE:BABA] exclusive authorization. Ma discusses internet, e-commerce and global trade topics, illustrating his bold predictions and his take on prospects for future trends. Yicai Global presents excerpts from this book:

As the world is changing significantly, I believe, the next three decades will mark the most brilliant period of human society, which will be both exciting and frightening. If you are not a participant in the construction of Big Data, and do not expect to turn your business into an enterprise operating in the internet environment substantially, I believe, you will be complaining.

Today, we are living in a time with hard choices, while we will also find the boom of many enterprises at the same time. In the past, after I interviewed six young men for enrollment at Hupan University, I was surprised by them and felt lucky that I started my business 15 years ago, for if I had to start up my business now, I would not be able to survive among these powerful rivals because they are using Big Data and internet models, and in fact I do not quite understand some things they told me. Besides, I believe, once I make out their words, I will be more intimidated.

Today marks a time when the government is managing to move towards innovation-based models. Though we have heard much about the expectations for transformation and upgrading, these actions are costly and the costs are becoming apparent. This issue is what I am considering most frequently. I concluded as follows: each technological revolution will definitely bring about a revolution in commerce and the whole society after many years. What will this revolution that we are embracing bring about? This revolution liberates human wisdom, namely our brains.

It is hard to image what this technological revolution will bring to society. Owing to the rapid change in the whole technology aspect, as well as the emerging, discovery and application of data, the business model in human society is changing, which will bring changes in economy, politics, and the entire society.

Each technological revolution brings significant impacts on business forms, which must be considered from the perspective of organizations. What will our future organizations be like? Future organizations will no longer only refer to the model by which companies employ workers, but will feature a model where workers can employ companies. Therefore, we need to reflect on this in advance. Specifically, what kind of organizations will be the most suitable for the future? What kind of teams will conform to future requirements?

Data is the Greatest Energy Source to Drive the Future Manufacturing Industry

I want to focus on reform from IT [Information Technology] to DT [Data Technology]. We always believe the process from IT to DT is just the improvement of technology. Actually, IT and DT are two different eras. DT is the beginning of a new time. In terms of sociology, IT time makes individuals more powerful, while DT time makes others more powerful; IT time allows others to work for me, while DT time allows individuals to serve others, i.e. it allows competitors to serve each other; in IT time, people control the future by analysis on information in the previous day, while in DT time, people create the future; in IT time, 20 percent of enterprises become stronger and the remaining 80 percent may be in the middle of nowhere, while in DT time, the capacities of the 80 percent will be released. IT time changes people to machine, while DT time changes machine to intelligent people, marking out entry into a new time. The future manufacturing industry not only can produce products, the machines manufactured by the future manufacturing industry must be able to think and exchange. In the future, all manufacturing enterprises will become the terminal enterprises of internet and big data. The most powerful energy driving the future manufacturing industry will be data rather than petroleum.

If we do not think about DT time in the future, nothing will be available for our technology to depend on, and we will still live in yesterday. No matter how powerful you are, you should consider how to make your employees, your customers and your partners more powerful all the time. Such an integrated system can be more competitive.

Today’s internet is not restricted to news, shopping, online games, and chatting. Internet enterprises are participating in social reform and economic growth, pushing education progress and economic prosperity, and making humans happier and all sectors of society more powerful.

We are in a time with great changes, when we can jointly look forward to the future, and change ourselves rather than others. In this way, you will not conclude that “it is the fault of big data” ten years later. We should turn big data into a great energy source for humans in the future.

‘Creation’ Will Be Born in DT

Once a foreign ambassador to China asked me what Alibaba’s next dream is upon our realized dream to go public in New York. In fact, in my view, Alibaba’s dream is far from being finished. Our hope is that we can build a 102-year company, with 86 years left from now on. And what we truly pursue is: to help more people fulfill their dreams through our efforts, namely, to shore up those dreams. We aim to share the whole idea of Aliyun [Alibaba’s cloud computing business] as well as the data and computing power Alibaba has accumulated with untold dream-seekers and entrepreneurs so as to enable their dreams to come true!

We are now embarking on a new age featured by resource integration, where the core resources encompass not only oil, but management, analysis and application of big data. China is still a major computer-based -- instead of computing-based --country, but the latter I think is the future reality. Today’s big data serves as a significant production material, while future productivity lies in the analysis and application ability of big data and innovation and entrepreneurship.

Big data will be indispensable for future regulation and government supervision. In terms of investment promotion, the government should take into account computing power, storage capability as well as the overall service level of data, to be specific, new retailing, new manufacturing, new finance, new technology, new resources and fair environment for start-up and competition, rather than traditional concepts relying on tax and land policies. The idea of this more equitable, transparent and open digital time can be down to close-knit connection between each other.

If we say the IT time gave birth to manufacturing, then in the DT time ‘creation’ will emerge. If what was created in the IT time was knowledge, then in the DT time, humans will usher in the time of intelligence in the real sense. In the future, computing power will become a productive force, while data will be the greatest means of production. It will become a public resource just like water, electricity and petroleum. Humans never thought they could land on the moon before exploring new energies like oil, and maybe we cannot image how far thinking capacity can extend before we get the computing capacity. But I believe one thing for sure is that with the computing capacity and data, humans will witness dramatic changes in the future, and will gradually shift their focus from the ‘outer’ to the ‘inner’. Humans knows little about themselves, but data will bring unprecedented cognition and knowledge of ourselves, and this is what I mean by ‘focusing inside.’

Such development represents further unleashing the potential of cognition and thinking from the technological perspective. Humans should rise to challenges arising from diseases, poverty and environmental deterioration, and now mankind is equipped with powerful weapons, namely the computer, the capacity of cloud computing, big data analysis and applications. I am convinced when the poorest corner of the world has internet access, humanity will have a better chance of conquering poverty. The unleashing of thinking capacity will also change the existing way of enterprises. Small businesses will obtain the same opportunities as large ones, and innovation and creation will become decisive factors for the success of enterprises.

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