An Open Research Institute

The Luohan Academy was founded in Hangzhou on June 26, 2018. It is an open research institute initiated by the Alibaba Group and launched by world-renowned social scientists, including seven Nobel Prize laureates in economics, and comprising the Academy’s academic committee.

The Academy is dedicated to collaborating with leading social scientists and practitioners worldwide, to collectively explore and shape discourse and consensus around the tremendous social and economic transformations brought by digital technology. The purpose of the Luohan Academy is to serve society at large, addressing the most important global challenges as well as having an eye toward humanity’s long-term future.

Mission Statement

Digital technology is fundamentally changing our global economy with the potential to advance human welfare in many ways

.It not only reduces costs and market frictions, but also enables the development of new services and processes. Consumers may benefit in numerous ways, from lower costs to improved services, and from greater social connectivity to better health outcomes. Entrepreneurs and firms (especially small firms) may benefit from having low-friction access to marketplaces, cheaper computing and back-office services, as well as earlier and cheaper, more efficient sources of financing. Governments may be able to lower the costs of administering their welfare systems, better anticipate and serve the needs of their citizens, and deliver services more efficiently and inclusively. Moreover, by building a valuable network for producers and consumers, digital platforms can generate new opportunities for resource and risk allocation, and provide a stage for efficient and resilient routines, processes restructuring, as well as market relationships.

At the same time, our society is not yet well-prepared for this unprecedented structural transformation

brought by big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, and other digital technologies. Thus, it is imperative that we study and manage the coming digital revolution to benefit society and protect individuals as consumers, workers, and citizens, both domestically and internationally.

Citizens in all countries are confronted with numerous questions about the optimal and balanced use of these new technologies.

How can societies harness the power of technology to promote growth, enhance societal welfare and at the same time preserve individual rights and social inclusion? What is the future of work and leisure? How must education change to address the needs of the changing nature of work, the rise of digital assistance, the rapid change of technology and new methods enabled by the digital revolution? How to avoid a “digital illiteracy” that results in “digital knowledge gap” across citizens? How can we ensure that the new social environments will be fair and inclusive? Which appropriate regulation and competition policies foster competition and technological progress without slowing innovation? What are the contours of a privacy policy that will allow legitimate use of data to create socially beneficial and inclusive services, while protecting citizens against abuses by unauthorized agents and institutions? How can digital technology contribute to a greener planet?

Social scientists in general, including economists, must therefore collaborate to help societies adapt smoothly and fairly to the digital revolution.

Two important objectives of the academic community are first, to understand business models and market structures that enable growth and progress, and second, to identify the impact of digitization on individual and social welfare. So far the rapidly increasing scale of digitization has not been followed by a corresponding increase in theoretically grounded empirical research on the rationales, consequences, and policies of digitization. A well-organized research community could greatly facilitate and speed up such research efforts.

This is an opportune time to bring the best research minds in the world together with first hand practical insights into the digital economy to advance the research frontiers of digitization and shape constructive consensus for the public good.

The Luohan Academy thus has a two-fold mission. The first is to understand how digital technology can help achieve the common good. The second is to help build a broad research community for systematic and in-depth research leading to new paradigms for solving first-order problems in the digital society. In this endeavor, the academy will abide by the spirit of open science, operating independently under the principles of integrity, inclusion and diversity.

It is an exciting new beginning. We sincerely invite you to join.

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