Ten key questions on digital economy

As digital economy technology is rapidly changing the way humans live, even the world’s most brilliant minds often have more questions than answers about its economic and social impacts.

A group of the world’s leading social scientists of the Luohan Academy, an open research platform initiated by China’s tech giant Alibaba Group, did just that by presenting ten questions they deem fundamental to the ongoing digital revolution.

The questions are presented in hopes of inspiring researchers to further the frontier of their study on the impact of digital technology and to shape a constructive consensus for the public good, according to the group of thinkers, which include six Nobel laureates.

The questions, covering issues such as the challenges of digital technologies, job opportunities, data security, as well as governance and regulation, were unveiled at the annual digital economy conference of the Luohan Academy.

On top of the list is that “can we embrace the technology proactively while managing new challenges at the same time, or shall we think through the risks first? And do we have this choice?”

The thinkers are also wondering whether digital technology leads to a new version of the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots, and how it affects jobs and job opportunities.

On the issue of data, privacy and security, they are not sure about how people should perceive and deal with digital data and to what extent they understand privacy as a tradeoff.

In addition, the leading social scientists discuss ways to promote international digital cooperation and the definition of new ethics of digital technology to ensure the direction towards a better society.

“There may not be perfect answers to these questions,” said Chen Long, director of the Luohan Academy. “But we hope these questions can inspire thinking and discussion so as to reach some consensus and alleviate our worries about a world full of uncertainties.”

Alibaba launched the Luohan Academy a year ago aiming to address emerging economic consequences and social disruptions of the digital economy.

“Luohan” is a Buddhist term for “perfected beings,” or “those who have achieved nirvana.” In the Chinese language, it is often used to describe “those with extraordinary skills and talent.”