A.I. that can replicate a human brain is still very far from reality, Alibaba exec says

  • A.I. has a long way to go before it can replicate a human brain, says Min Wanli at CNBC's East Tech West conference in Guangzhou.
  • Automation will not take away jobs, it will transform jobs, Min says.
  • Alibaba upgrades its Cloud business and appoints a new head.

A.I. is still far from human.

Even as technological processes get smarter and cloud computing delves into data collection and analytics, Artificial Intelligence still has a long way to go before it can replicate a human brain, said an executive who oversees Alibaba Cloud's A.I. projects.

"As of today, nobody in the A.I. programming world is capable of doing that, even to an entry-level approach," Min Wanli, chief machine intelligence scientist at Alibaba Cloud, told CNBC's Arjun Kharpal. "We have to learn how to coordinate multiple dimensional capability to get there."

Min, who oversees artificial intelligence projects at Alibaba Cloud, was speaking at CNBC's three-day East Tech West conference in Nansha district of Guangzhou, China. He enrolled in college at the young age of 14 and has a Ph.D. in Statistics from the University of Chicago.

A bigger fear with automation is perhaps the loss of human jobs at factories and industries equipped with power technology such as sensors and devices to collect and analyze data. Min said their goal was to make workers as smart as power machines.

"I wouldn't call it a job loss, it's a job transformation," Min said.

A champion of pattern predictions and data intelligence, Min has used a data machine in the past to predict the winner of a Chinese reality TV show called "I Am Singer." He also helped Hangzhou city planners to optimize traffic lights to reduce congestion.

"We are the first ones to really deliver a system which can cut down travel time of an ambulance by more than half," Min said.

Alibaba Cloud gets an upgrade

Min is part of Alibaba Cloud, which the company refers to as its most promising business unit. Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang, who will succeed Jack Ma as the group's chairman in September 2019, announced the upgrade of its cloud business on Monday, weeks after he told CNBC that Alibaba Cloud would be the group's main business in the future.

In an internal letter to employees after the company earned a record-breaking $30.8 billion in Singles Day sales in 24 hours earlier this month, Zhang said the upgraded cloud business will be called Alibaba Cloud Intelligence business group, and will be headed by Zhang Jianfeng, the group's current chief technology officer.

After the upgrade, Zhang said Alibaba's cloud business will work on building an intelligent technology infrastructure based on cloud computing that will be available to the public, underlying the company's focus on cloud and e-commerce.

Hangzhou-based Alibaba's cloud business reported a 90 percent jump in second-quarter revenue to $825 million, boosted by high-value services and increased number of paid customers. Alibaba Cloud contributed 7 percent to the company's overall revenue in the second quarter.

With the upgrade, Alibaba Cloud aims to gain a stronger footing on the e-commerce map compared to global rival Amazon.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Min Wanli helped Hangzhou city planners to optimize traffic lights to reduce congestion.