Alibaba’s Jack Ma says he is ‘worried’ Europe will stifle innovation with too much tech regulation

18-May-2019 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Jack Ma, Alibaba Group executive chair and co-founder, on Thursday urged Europe to stop worrying about technology, as tighter regulation could hamper its ability to innovate.

He pointed to China as an example of how a lack of regulation around the internet in the early days allowed China’s mobile internet to flourish and for Alibaba to thrive. Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.

“[Back then] most of the government officials didn’t know how to make rules and laws for the internet, because nobody realised what the internet looked like,” Ma said at the VivaTech conference in Paris. “That gave us the chance to grow fast.”

He added that in China, entrepreneurs “start to solve problems” first before thinking about regulation, but suggested that Europe’s tendency to regulate once it becomes worried about a certain issue could be stifling innovation.

Compared to the US, whose Silicon Valley has produced the likes of Facebook and Google, as well as China with its technology powerhouses like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu, Europe lags behind in terms of technology innovation and has not produced as many big tech firms.

“Europe … everything you do follows rules and laws. Everything you think about, when you start to worry, you make rules and laws,” he said. “I worry about Europe, and I worry about the worries of Europe.”

Ma’s comments come as Europe looks to tighten technology regulation. Last year, the continent put in place the general Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), a set of data protection rules for all companies that have operations in the region to ensure they gather personal data legally and protect that data from being misused.

The European Commission, as well as European nations including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK, joined New Zealand’s rallying call on Wednesday to curb online extremism via a series of measures aimed at holding tech companies more accountable for the content published on their platforms.

In April, the European Union (EU) released guidelines on developing artificial intelligence (AI) ethically.

Ma suggested that worries about AI and the dangers it presents are overblown, pointing out that while AI can be used for bad, it can also be used for good. He used Alibaba as an example, pointing out that the company uses AI to “catch a lot of thieves” who wish to steal from the millions of payment transactions made on its platform every day.

“[Europe worries] that you don’t have the solution to artificial intelligence, that it may destroy a lot of things … forget it,” said Ma. “Bad guys are using artificial intelligence to do bad things, but we’re using artificial intelligence to catch bad guys [on Alibaba].”

“There’s always a yin and yang balance, how you see the world,” said Ma, referring to the Chinese philosophy of inseparable and contradictory opposites. “If you see the technology revolution as a problem, I’m sorry to say the problem just started. If you think it’s an opportunity, the opportunity just started.”


Category: China

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