Alibaba chairman Jack Ma has an unsettling warning for the world: pain will rule in the coming decades.
It’s as if we’re not having enough of it yet. Unfortunately, Ma attributes this suffering to the very fabric that binds all of us today.
The 52-year-old said in an entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou, China:
“In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness. Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life.”
The business magnate specifically referred to job disruptions caused by automation and the internet economy, Bloomberg noted. According to the outlet, such remarks were unusual for the Alibaba co-founder, who often came out as optimistic and visionary.
But the truth is, Ma simply recalled the warning he already gave some years back. He told the audience:
“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.”
Now, Ma’s words are more relevant than ever, especially in China where 77% of jobs are at risk for automation, as per a Citibank and Oxford Martin School report. In the U.S., the job risk number is 47%.
Ma acknowledges the limitation of technological application, however. “Machines should only do what humans cannot. Only in this way can we have the opportunities to keep machines as working partners with humans, rather than as replacements,” he said.
Still, the internet could only be part of the cause of a global turmoil. In February, Ma also warned against populism, arguing that separation from international trade could cause problems as worse as armed conflict. Business Insider quoted him as saying:
“If trade stops, war starts. We have to actively prove that trade helps people to communicate. And we should have fair trade, transparent trade, inclusive trade.”
Do you agree with Ma’s prediction?