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A pioneer of cloud computing and big data offers his vision of the future world taking shape around us.
Jian Wang was the founder and architect of Alibaba's cloud and has been the driving force behind its technology innovations. He was also the founder of the City Brain initiative to develop a new digital infrastructure for sustainable cities. Being Online is his meditation on the moment we are in, as the digital era shifts to the internet era, spawning new innovations at a seemingly dizzying pace: cloud computing, 5G, artificial intelligence, big data, wearables, robots, virtual reality, the internet of things, blockchain, and more. For Wang, the invisible hand that connects them is being online. The conjunction of computing, data, and the internet has erased the difference between being online and off. When computing can be done in the cloud, it is on the road to becoming a utility. When data is connected, making it big, its usefulness multiplies exponentially in unforeseeable ways, as does its value.
This moment will be as transformative for humanity as Henry Ford's production line. Data is changing the nature of business. Computing is reshaping the economy. The cloud will help us do things we could never do before, at scales that were previously impossible. It will reshape our vision of the world, as electrification once did and, more recently, the transition from analog to digital. While telling the story of Alibaba’s breakthroughs and the development of his own understanding of the internet, Jian Wang's visionary book lays out the implications of this shift and how to think about being online.
About the Author
Dr. Jian Wang was the chief technology officer at Alibaba and founded its cloud, which ranks third as a public cloud provider globally and first in Asia. He was also the chief architect of Apsara, its computing foundation, and took the lead in proposing the industrial model of using computing as a public service. In 2016, Dr. Wang pioneered and led the nonprofit City Brain initiative to develop a new digital infrastructure for sustainable “smart” cities as his personal effort and was the architect of Hangzhou City Brain. He founded the Yunqi Academy of Engineering, a private nonprofit research institute with a focus on scientific research for City Brain, and the Yunqi Science and Technology Innovation Foundation, a philanthropic private foundation that operates the free 2050 museum, which envisions the future through technology innovation and organizes the 2050 event every year in April, promoting the vision of science and technology bringing people together. He is a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering and lives in Hangzhou, China.
“The first time I met Dr. Jian Wang (we call him the Doctor), I was shocked by his vision of the future of internet technology. I wish we had met earlier.”—Jack Ma, cofounder and former executive chairman of Alibaba Group, from his foreword
"In Being Online Jian Wangoffers an expert view into the future of information and interconnectivity. The convergence of digital technologies promises to transform the economy and the society in ways that will affect every company and every individual. This book provides a roadmap for managers, technologists, entrepreneurs, and ordinary citizens."—Mauro F. Guillén, dean, Cambridge Judge Business School and bestselling author of 2030: How Today's Biggest Trends Will Collide and Reshape the Future of Everything
“Dr. Jian Wang was, and is, a moonshot thinker. From Alibaba Cloud to City Brain, his own brain seemingly knows no limitation, and he puts it to the task in this book by distilling complex ideas into approachable frameworks, philosophies, and tangible examples. True to form, Dr. Wang doesn’t hold back on making bold observations or predictions. This book is for those who are curious about how the online world came to be and interested in where it is going.”— K. Guru Gowrappan, CEO of Verizon Media/Yahoo
“Being Online reads like an encyclopedia of technology knowledge at your disposal. Dr. Wang can expound on the fact of 'data in the cloud' and match it with his understanding of the human experience and inevitable interaction that transforms the relationship, resulting in organic growth much like that of humanity itself. Beyond that, the concept of 'being online' is an apt metaphor mirroring our unique, expressive interaction with our most important technologies. Dr. Wang’s book can serve as a launching pad for the creative technical minds that will build the essential tools for our future.”—Ed Bennett, former president and CEO of VH1, former CEO of Prodigy
“Few people in the world have Jian Wang’s perspective of our web‑enabled future—spanning eastern and western cultures.Being Online offers unique and valuable insights into the cloud and our increasingly interconnected world. It is not to be missed.”—Robert Buderi, journalist, entrepreneur, and author of Engines of Tomorrow and other books
"Jian Wang presents an extremely knowledgeable and compelling account of our emerging online lives. His exposition of the City Brain Initiative is particularly inspiring for the future of smart cities. I thoroughly recommend reading this book."—Peter G. Rowe, Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design and Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
“Whatever your background, this fascinating book will likely enrich your understanding of the potential for data once it is interactively available online. Wang believes being online will be the ‘essence of this era’ and that our understanding of it has just begun. At the highest level, having real-time interactive access to data, knowledge, partners, and users is ultimately a major amplifier of innovation. He persuasively makes the case that the 'new continent' he describes will be constantly expanding in valuable new ways.”—Curt Carlson, former chairman and CEO of SRI
“Through his cross-disciplinary training and working experiences, Dr. Wang gained a unique and profound understanding of data, cloud computing, and the internet. ‘Being online’ is what makes ‘big data’ interesting and valuable. This book will help you think deeper and further about the future of digitization and its impact on our societies. It’s a must-read for anybody who cares about data and its potential business opportunities.”—Zuo-Jun (Max) Shen, Chancellor's Professor, Industrial Engineering and Operations Research & Civil and Environmental Engineering, UC Berkeley; vice president and pro vice chancellor (research), University of Hong Kong
“When I first met Dr. Jian Wang ten years ago, he couldn’t stop talking about the exciting future of cloud computing. Today, he has become a pioneer and doer of Alibaba's fundamental technology infrastructure. In the book, he not only shares his unique experience, but also makes bold predictions for the future. I believe that no matter what industry you are in, this wonderful book will open your mind.”—Joseph Tsai, executive vice president, Alibaba Group
“Being Online can greatly inspire the younger generation. In it, the Doctor generously shares the stories of YunOS and the ‘De-IOE’ of Aliyun (Alibaba Cloud), which demonstrate both the reach of his ambition and his persistence. Reading his book is knowing the person.”—Ming-Kai Tsai, chairman of the board and former CEO, MediaTek Inc.
“You don’t really understand the internet if you don’t understand what being online is. At the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, I was so excited after listening to Dr. Jian Wang speak that I sent a text message to Jack Ma saying. 'Jian Wang is Alibaba’s treasure!" Jack replied, 'He is China's treasure.'"—Shuo Qin, former editor in chief of China Business NewsDaily