Sunday, April 23, 2017
Tech disruption pain to last long, says Jack Ma; 'We are a long way from the boom time of 2007'; Google home assistant recognises voices
1 Tech disruption pain to last long, says Jack Ma (Straits Times) Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma said society should prepare for decades of pain as the Internet disrupts the economy. The world must change education systems and establish how to work with robots to help soften the blow caused by automation and the Internet economy, Ma said.
"In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness," Ma said of job disruptions caused by the Internet. "Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life."
Ma made the comments as Alibaba, China's largest e-commerce operator, spends billions of dollars to move into new businesses from film production and video streaming to cloud computing. Ma, 52, also hit out at the traditional banking industry, saying that lending must be available to more members of society.
Alibaba shares have outperformed this year on expectations it can withstand efforts by rivals such as Tencent Holdings Ltd. to capture digital ad spending and muscle in on its turf. The company is moving into untapped rural markets and investing in new sources of income, such as online media and cloud computing - one of its fastest-growing businesses in 2016.
Ma also called for traditional industries to stop complaining about the Internet's effects on the economy. He said Alibaba critics ignore that Taobao has created millions of jobs. He also warned that longer lifespans and better artificial intelligence were likely to lead to both aging labor forces and fewer jobs.
2 'We are a long way from the boom time of 2007' (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) The IMF meeting of the past few days was supposed to be about how the global economy has at last emerged into the light from its long dark tunnel. Christine Lagarde, the fund’s managing director, radiated optimism.
For a change growth forecasts were revised up. The impression was given that everything is back under control. The reality is somewhat different. There will be no return to the world as it was in the spring of 2007 for many years, if ever. It was a moment when many trends peaked.
Firstly, it represented peak America. The years leading up to 2007 had been dominated by a particular view of the world. Some called it the Washington consensus. Some called it the advent of a unipolar world, in which the US emerged victorious after its cold war struggle with the Soviet Union. Francis Fukuyama called it the end of history.
The US remains an economic and military superpower, but it was the Chinese and not the American economy that hauled the world out of recession in 2008-09. American attempts to prevent China setting up an Asian infrastructure bank failed. When Donald Trump wanted to get tough with North Korea he had to drop plans to brand China a currency manipulator. The period between 1990 and 2007 when the US was unchallenged is over.
Secondly, 2007 was peak growth. It is now apparent that the period of rapid expansion in the early 2000s was only possible because the financial system was out of control and households were taking on record amounts of debt.
Ruchir Sharma, chief global strategist and head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, noted “In 2007, at the peak of the pre-crisis boom, the economies of 65 countries grew at annual rates of 7% or more. Today, just six economies are growing at that rate, and most of those are in small countries such as Côte d’Ivoire and Laos.”
Thirdly, the sub-prime crisis marked peak globalisation. From that moment, there was never any realistic chance of concluding the multilateral trade talks begun in Doha in 2001. Moreover, while publicly opposing protectionism, rich and poor countries alike have been putting up barriers to trade.
But it is not just trade. Free movement of capital was a key component of globalisation in the 1990s and early 2000s, but these peaked at the time of the recession and have fallen back sharply as a percentage of world GDP.
3 Google home assistant recognizes voices (San Francisco Chronicle) Google's voice-activated assistant can now recognize who's talking to it on Google's Home speaker. An update enables Home's built-in assistant to learn the different voices of up to six people, although they can't all be talking to the internet-connected speaker at the same time.
Distinguishing voices will allow Home to be more personal in some of its responses, depending on who triggers the assistant with the phrase, "OK Google" or "Hey Google."
For instance, once Home is trained to recognize a user named Joe, the assistant will automatically be able to tell him what traffic is like on his commute, list events on his daily calendar or even play his favorite songs. Then another user named Jane could get similar information from Home, but customized for her.
The ability to distinguish voices may help Home siphon sales from Amazon.com's Echo, a competing product that features its own voice-activated assistant, Alexa. The Echo doesn't yet recognize different voices. Instead, it has a feature that allows Alexa to switch to a different account when told to do so. The Echo can only handle two personal accounts.