“Every major technology revolution takes 50 years of time (to develop), the first 20 for technology and the subsequent 30 for application,” said Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma on Saturday at the 20th annual conference of China Association for Science and Technology, where the high-profile tech billionaire shared his reflections on technologies.
Ma said that in the coming ten to twenty years, society as a whole will face major challenges due to three main technological advancements – IoT (Internet of Things), machine learning, and blockchain technology, the hindsight from historical trends following technology revolutions.
The three technologies
Ma is bearish on bitcoin, which he thinks could become a bubble in the future, but he’s bullish on the blockchain.
He doesn’t see blockchain as a goldmine, but he believes that blockchain is the right shovel amidst the digital finance goldrush, and a solution for data privacy and security in the current digital age.
To exemplify his blockchain verdict, he told an anecdote about an Alibaba employee. The engineer advertised himself as an engineer on his lonely-hearts ad. After reinventing himself as a “blockchain engineer”, he received 381 love letters.
An apple to apple comparison with bitcoin could be the IoT wagon that businesses are jumping on board now, selling items such as smart and connected everything, yet simply to leverage on the basics of IoT to get more sales, in Ma’s opinion.
He thinks that the IoT world has not even come yet and the same can be thought about machine learning.
Despite the much-hyped research and developments in machine learning, it is a daunting task to teach machines to think when we cannot even understand up to 15% of our brain functions.
Future technology challenges & opportunities for China
According to the founder, one has to be quick and battle to be the frontrunners, thrive under enormous pressure, in order to be a global technology leader, creating the most advanced technologies.
Ma’s advice for China’s scientific and business world will be to develop a forward-thinking mindset, investing and growing only because the future needs it, rather than because the US or Russia already has it.
Ma also envisioned a future, where people only work 3 hours a day and the lifestyle goal is to visit 300 cities in one’s lifetime. The service industry will also grow in greater importance in the future, he said.