by: Brett Molina, USA TODAY
Alibaba announced Wednesday it will invest $15 billion over the next three years into “cutting-edge technology” including quantum computing and artificial intelligence. The DAMO Academy will oversea the launch of research labs worldwide and recruit scientists and researchers to join. The Chinese e-commerce giant will open seven labs including ones in San Mateo, Calif., and Bellevue, Wash., as well as Beijing, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
The academy will focus on topics such as Internet of things, network security, machine learning, and natural language processing. “We aim to discover breakthrough technologies that will enable greater efficiency, network security and ecosystem synergy for end-users and businesses everywhere,” said Alibaba chief technology officer Jeff Zhang in a statement. The academy will create an advisory board featuring educators and researchers to decide where to focus its research. Artificial intelligence is a hot market for tech, with many companies using it to power services such as digital voice assistants like Siri or Alexa.
Among the biggest champions of AI is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said last summer the technology could create safer cars or ways to better detect diseases. However, many critics — notably Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk — have raised concerns about AI’s potential threat to humanity. Musk is calling for governments to institute regulations before the use of AI becomes more common.
The investment is part of Alibaba’s broader plan to serve 2 billion customers and create 100 million jobs in 20 years, the company said. Earlier this year, Alibaba introduced a program to help small businesses based in the U.S. sell their goods to its 443 million customers in China.