Jack Ma, the billionaire founder and chairman of Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, has sounded the alarm about the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence, warning that "the world will see much more pain than happiness" over the next few decades, Bloomberg reports.
Speaking at a an entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou, China, Ma said that education systems will have to evolve in order to teach students how to work with robots, which he believes could "help soften the blow caused by automation and the internet economy," according to Bloomberg.
It was an unusual speech for the Alibaba co-founder, who tends to embrace his role as visionary and extol the promise of the future. He explained at the event that he had tried to warn people in the early days of e-commerce it would disrupt traditional retailers and the like, but few listened. This time, he wants to warn against the impact of new technologies so no one will be surprised.
“Fifteen years ago I gave speeches 200 or 300 times reminding everyone the Internet will impact all industries, but people didn’t listen because I was a nobody," he said.
While most of the dire predictions for how automation will transform the workforce seem to most often focus on replacing low-skilled laborers - such as factory workers - Ma sees AI's disruption making it all the way up to the C-suite, as the Guardian notes.
“Machines should only do what humans cannot,” he said. “Only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans, rather than as
Even so, Ma acknowledged that in the future companies will likely be run by robots.
“Thirty years later, the Time magazine cover for the best CEO of the year very likely will be a robot,” he said. Robots can make calculations more quickly and rationally than humans, Ma added, and won’t be swayed by emotions, for example by getting angry at competitors.
Ma said that executives who do not understand how cloud computing and artificial intelligence fit into the future of business should talk to a younger employee, according to the Guardian.