Follow Datanami:
January 24, 2018

AI Could Trigger WWIII, Alibaba CEO Warns


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma were among the global leaders who warned about the potential dangers of big data and artificial intelligence at the World Economic Forum in Davos today, while Google CEO Sundar Pichai stressed the need for balance.

Ma, who founded the $24-billion ecommerce giant in China nearly 20 years ago, warned that the current technological revolution that’s giving computers new powers could eventually lead to World War Three.

“The first technology revolution caused the First World War and the second technology revolution caused the Second World War,” Ma said, according to a story in Business Today, which is based in India. “Now we have the third the revolution.”

Like its fellow Web giants in the West, Alibaba has been a fervent adopter and adapter of big data tech. The company is using and developing deep learning techniques to bolster the accuracy of computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) in the same manner as its American competitors.

While the leaders of American Web giants typically downplay the downsides of AI, Ma has taken a different approach and appears to have a genuine wariness about it.

AI is more important to humans than fire, says Google’s CEO

“Technology should enable people not disable them,” he said, according to Business Today. “We should spend money on technology that empowers us and makes life better. The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs as machines will replace humans in the future.”

It wasn’t the first time that Ma has tied the use of AI to WWIII. In fact, he made similar comments in 2015 and 2017. In the battle between humans and AI, Ma sees humans coming out on top.

Ma’s dystopian view on the future of AI is not shared by Google’s CEO Pichai, who said AI was more important than fire and electricity during a one-on-one interview with WEF representatives.

“Anytime you work with technology, you need to learn to harness the technology while minimizing the downsides,” Pichai said. “The risks [of AI] are substantial, but the way you solve it is by looking ahead, thinking about it, thinking about AI safety from day one, and to be transparent and open about how we pursue it.”

Meanwhile, Merkel highlighted the risks and benefits that big data collection by foreign companies posed to her German countrymen during her comments at the World Economic Forum, which attracted hundreds of political and business leaders from around the world.

During her speech, Merkel wondered whether Germans were doing enough to work with data, which she called “the raw material of the 21st Century.” “Germany is not a leading nation in this area,” Merkel said during her speech, according to an article in New Europe.

GDPR will end rampant commercialization of personal data in Europe, but will it set back European tech firms? (Pe3k/Shutterstock)=

Germany is one of 28 European Union countries (27 after Great Britain leaves the EU) that is a signatory to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which imposes strict rules on how the private data of European citizens is to be collected, stored, and used. European companies are generally ahead of their foreign counterparts when it comes to GDPR compliance, but

Merkel lamented that several factors, including Germany’s aging populace and the fact that “everything works well” already, have combined to minimize the motivation of Germans to develop more capabilities around big data.

“…[L]arge American and Chinese companies are collecting more and more data while Europe is doing little,” she said. However, the question of “who owns that data?” will ultimately decide “whether democracy, the participatory social model, and economic prosperity can be combined,” she said.

Related Items:

Tech’s Hottest New Trend: Data Governance

Why 2018 Will Be All About the Data