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To Pursue Philanthropy, Alibaba’s Chief Executive Jack Ma Steps Down

Ma is retiring as at a time when the China is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the US and the Chinese economy is facing slowing growth and increasing debt.

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Alibaba Cloud
The logo is displayed at the New York Stock Exchange, in New York. VOA

In a surprising move, China’s richest man, Jack Ma, has revealed plans to step down as the Executive Chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba on Monday to pursue philanthropy in education, paving the way for a change of guard for the $420 billion Internet company that he co-founded.

Ma will turn 54 on Monday, which is also a holiday in China and known as Teacher’s Day.

In an exclusive New York Times interview, the Chinese billionaire said on Friday that his retirement was not the end of an era but “the beginning of an era”.

“I love education,” the Chinese billionaire said, adding that he would be spending more of his time and fortune focused on education.

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A former English teacher, Ma co-founded Alibaba with 17 others out of his apartment in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, in 1999.

He built it into one of the world’s most consequential e-commerce and digital payments companies, transforming how Chinese people shop and pay for things which fuelled his net worth to more than $40 billion, making him China’s richest man.

Ma is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth.

Ma will remain on Alibaba’s board of directors and continue to mentor the company’s management.

The retirement makes Ma one of the first founders among a generation of prominent Chinese Internet entrepreneurs to step down from their companies.

alibaba
Visitors walk past a giant display at the Alibaba Group headquarters in Hangzhou, in eastern China’s Zhejiang province, May 27, 2016. VOA

Firms including Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu and JD.com have flourished in recent years, growing to nearly rival American Internet behemoths like Amazon and Google in their size, scope and ambition.

Last month, Alibaba reported a 60 per cent increase in quarterly sales, even as profits fell.

The company’s annual revenue totals about 250 billion yuan ($40 billion).

Alibaba has also changed the way people work in China. Millions of people now run their own shops selling goods on its Taobao ecommerce platform or stream their own videos on its entertainment platforms, The Financial Times reported.

Taobao is estimated to have created almost 37m jobs in China, according to a study last year by Renmin University’s School of Labour and Human Resources, the report added.

For Chinese tycoons to step aside in their 50s is rare; they usually remain at the top of their organisations for many years.

Alibaba
Ma is revered by many Chinese, some of whom have put his portrait in their homes to worship in the same way that they worship the God of Wealth. Flickr

In an interview earlier this week, Ma had signaled that he was thinking about focusing more on philanthropy. He cited the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates as an example.

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Ma is retiring as at a time when the China is embroiled in an escalating trade war with the US and the Chinese economy is facing slowing growth and increasing debt, The New York Times report said. (IANS)

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This AI System Can Evade Censorship In India, China and Kazakhstan

Researchers develop an AI tool that evades censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan

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(AI)-based system automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan. Pixabay

Researchers have developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based system that automatically learns to evade censorship in India, China and Kazakhstan.

The tool, called Geneva (short for Genetic Evasion), found dozens of ways to circumvent censorship by exploiting gaps in censors’ logic and finding bugs that the researchers said would have been virtually impossible for humans to find manually.

The researchers are scheduled to introduce Geneva during a peer-reviewed talk at the Association for Computing Machinery’s 26th Conference on Computer and Communications Security in London on Thursday.

“With Geneva, we are, for the first time, at a major advantage in the censorship arms race,” said Dave Levin, an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Maryland in the US and senior author of the paper.

“Geneva represents the first step toward a whole new arms race in which artificial intelligence systems of censors and evaders compete with one another. Ultimately, winning this race means bringing free speech and open communication to millions of users around the world who currently don’t have them,” Levin said.\

censorship, AI
This AI system that evades censorship is called ‘Geneva’. Pixabay

To demonstrate that Geneva worked in the real world against undiscovered censorship strategies, the team ran Geneva on a computer in China with an unmodified Google Chrome browser installed.

By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user was able to browse free of keyword censorship.

The researchers also successfully evaded censorship in India, which blocks forbidden URLs, and Kazakhstan, which was eavesdropping on certain social media sites at the time, said a statement from the University of Maryland.

All information on the Internet is broken into data packets by the sender’s computer and reassembled by the receiving computer.

One prevalent form of Internet censorship works by monitoring the data packets sent during an Internet search.

The censor blocks requests that either contain flagged keywords (such as “Tiananmen Square” in China) or prohibited domain names (such as “Wikipedia” in many countries).

When Geneva is running on a computer that is sending out web requests through a censor, it modifies how data is broken up and sent, so that the censor does not recognise forbidden content or is unable to censor the connection.

Known as a genetic algorithm, Geneva is a biologically inspired type of AI that Levin and his team developed to work in the background as a user browses the web from a standard Internet browser.

Like biological systems, Geneva forms sets of instructions from genetic building blocks. But rather than using DNA as building blocks, Geneva uses small pieces of code.

Censorship
By deploying strategies identified by Geneva, the user is able to browse free of keyword censorship. Pixabay

Individually, the bits of code do very little, but when composed into instructions, they can perform sophisticated evasion strategies for breaking up, arranging or sending data packets.

The tool evolves its genetic code through successive attempts (or generations). With each generation, Geneva keeps the instructions that work best at evading censorship and kicks out the rest.

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Geneva mutates and cross breeds its strategies by randomly removing instructions, adding new instructions, or combining successful instructions and testing the strategy again.

Through this evolutionary process, Geneva is able to identify multiple evasion strategies very quickly, said the study. (IANS)