In 30 Years, the Best CEO Could Be a Robot, Says Alibaba Founder

by Monica Hunter-Hart
Getty Images / Sean Gallup

Jack Ma, founder of the online marketplace Alibaba, delivered some words of wisdom and warning on Monday about the effect of advancing digital technologies on the global economy.

At an event for the China Entrepreneur Club, Ma laid out his views on what the world will look like in 30 years. For one thing, he guessed that “the Time Magazine cover for the best CEO of the year very likely will be a robot” in 2047. That’s because: “It remembers better than you, it counts faster than you, and it won’t be angry with competitors.”

In general, though, Ma said that he hopes that artificial intelligence doesn’t replace human labor so much as complement it, by doing the work that people can’t do. For example, more data is being created daily in our increasingly digital world than ever before. Ma says that the data is too extensive for humans to process, but that A.I could do the job instead.

Ma said that humans will live longer as we work increasingly with A.I. But his other predictions were far from rosy.

Jack Ma

Getty Images / Wang He

“In the coming 30 years, the world’s pain will be much more than happiness, because there are many more problems that we have come across,” he said. He argued that increasing dependence on the internet and digital technology will cause major disruptions in our societies, particularly if we allow A.I. to keep replacing human jobs.

He said that governments must invest in education reform, and that we all must reflect upon the role of machines in the economy — we should aim for them to become a “human partner” — to prevent massive societal turmoil.

Let’s hope the world heeds this advice.

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