Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has said that blockchain and other advanced technologies still need to prove they can help evolve society in a “greener and more inclusive” direction. His remarks came as part of a keynote delivered at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in China September 17.
While Ma’s keynote focused on the challenges and common (mis)perceptions surrounding the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) in particular, he reserved a place for blockchain and internet of things (IoT) technology as technological watersheds in the new “data age,” arguing that:
“The data age is major opportunity for manufacturers to reform the industry. But blockchain and IoT will be meaningless tech unless they can promote the transformation of the manufacturing industry, and the evolution of the society towards a greener and more inclusive direction.”
Jack Ma, who now plans to go into retirement, has a net worth of $36.9 billion, according to Forbes. The overwhelmingly popular mobile payment app Alipay, run by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial, is said to have 450 million users.
Blockchain is no new topic for the e-commerce titan, as Ma has previously this year rebutted claims that the technology is merely a “bubble,” emphasizing that he has been researching blockchain for years and believes strongly in its potential to address issues of data privacy and security for society at all levels.
Indeed as early as summer 2016, Ant Financial, introduced blockchain technology to improve accountability in its work with the Chinese charity industry, going on to recruit blockchain experts in the company at large the following year.
Fresh data published late August revealed that Alibaba had sealed the top first globally on a new list that ranked entities by the number of blockchain-related patents filed to date; the e-commerce conglomerate has filed a staggering 90 such patents, outflanking even IBM.
Nonetheless, Alibaba has strictly complied with Beijing’s recently redoubled efforts to clamp down on decentralized cryptocurrencies, with Alipay announcing it would block any account that uses its network to transact in Bitcoin (BTC) over-the-counter (OTC) trade.
Ant Financial has also reportedly said it plans to conduct a “risk prevention” program intended to educate users about the dangers of false crypto-related “propaganda.”