Hi there. It’s Brady.
The World Artificial Intelligence Conference, in my view, hit a cultural high point in August 2019. Jack Ma shared a stage with Elon Musk, each in a white, boxy, single-seater sofa. The pair had a clumsy exchange about the menace of AI, the meaning of going to Mars, and… love? The session was a little confusing.
Musk: AI means love.
Ma: That’s absolutely right. If you want to be successful, you have to have EQ and IQ. In the future, if you want to survive, you need to have the ‘love quotient,’ otherwise, you cannot survive in the time of AI.
Musk: I agree with it. Love is the answer.
It was weird, watching two billies disagree, then agree and kill the conversation that way. I bring this up because there wasn’t much love going around at this year’s WAIC. It was a rather bland affair.
SenseTime’s co-founder and CEO, Xu Li, spoke about AI’s role in unlocking new scientific discoveries and appointed Liu Cixin, the author of the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, as the director of something called the SenseTime Science Fiction Planet Research Center. Executives of Beike, an NYSE-listed property platform, delivered their promises to use AI, VR, and AR in the processes of showing and selling real estate. Tencent’s Pony Ma extolled his “tech for good” message.
Every major company is an AI company now, if you squint hard enough. AI applications are a basic utility for many operations; every business has data to sort and grindy processes that can be automated.
But if tech is supposed to make us feel more in touch with our humanity, its leading edge needs to amaze us like magic does. None of the deliveries at WAIC were as fun as appearing as a holographic projection, which Jack Ma did at the forum’s 2020 edition. What’s the point of having cutting-edge tech at your fingertips if you can’t use it to make people go “wow”?
There are good reasons to be the anti-Jack right now. New regulations are being defined, overseas IPOs are being brought to a standstill, and tech companies face new strictures. There will be no more fiery speeches or dabbling in ancient poetry—as was the case for Meituan capo Wang Xing, whose online post of old verses made his company lose billions of dollars in value in May, and then government officials summoned him and told him to lay low.
For now, Chinese tech bosses will be mild figures. Forgettable, even.
- Gree strikes a deal with Huawei to use HarmonyOS in home appliances.
- Cloud computing provider Singularity Data raises USD 10 million angel round.
- SoftBank returns to Flipkart’s cap table with a USD 3.6 billion funding round.
- First-gen entrepreneurs value what Investcorp brings to the table, head of private equity Gaurav Sharma says.
- Ola Electric to speed up manufacturing of two-wheeled electric vehicles with USD 100 million venture debt.
- China will require reviews of overseas IPOs by companies with data on 1 million users.