At a time when people are worried about artificial intelligence and robots taking their jobs, Alibaba founder Jack Ma says there’s no need to worry. He believes that in only three decades, people may only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week.
From large-scale to small and personalized
Alibaba is one of the biggest companies in the world, but interestingly, Ma doesn’t think massive scale is the future either. While most others argue that big tech firms such as Alibaba, Facebook, Apple and Alphabet have become too powerful, even verging on being monopolies, Ma feels that the power of such firms is actually falling.
He told CNBC at the Gateway ’17 conference this week that small businesses are starting to gain more exposure on the Internet, and this has lessened the power of massive firms. He explained that large scale was the model of the past, but “personalized, custom-made is the future.” There’s no word on whether he plans to downsize Alibaba and spin off every piece of it into a separate business to fit that future.
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People will only work four hours a day
He also talked about jobs and artificial intelligence. Earlier this year before Donald Trump was in office, Jack Ma pledged to create or support 1 million jobs in the U.S. over the next five years. Most of those jobs are to be supported through small businesses by facilitating trade between them and consumers in China.
The Alibaba founder feels that “one of the best ways” to figure out how to create jobs is to enable small businesses to sell their products around the world. He added that we need to prepare now “because the next 30 years is going to be painful.” During the presidential campaign and since Trump took office, the tension between the U.S. and China has been on the rise, with Trump himself driving much of the increase in tension.
However, Trump and Ma may have some common ground. Ma’s vision is an increase goods that are made in America and sold to members of the middle class in China. For example, he said that Alibaba shoppers bought 2 million tubes of lipstick that are made in America in only 15 minutes over the weekend. One of Trump’s campaign priorities was boosting goods that are made in America to bring jobs back to the States.
Next technology revolution may spark World War 3
Jack Ma has been traveling the world for the last couple of years. He traveled for 800 hours last year and plans to spend 1,000 hours on the road this year, telling government leaders to get ready for the future and warning them that if they don’t get ready, there will be trouble.
One of the big changes that’s coming is further expansion of artificial intelligence. Ma sees one of the benefits of AI as being much shorter work days, which will enable people to spend more time traveling and less time working. In fact, he believes that at some point in the next 30 years, people may “only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week.”
He added that his grandfather worked 16 hours a day on the farm and thought he was busy, but today, we work only eight hours a day and five days a week. So he sees the next progression being to work four hours a day, but also warned that a natural part of the process will be extreme job loss, which is what he’s been traveling to warn government leaders about.
He believes the first “technology revolution” was the cause of World War I, while the second technology revolution caused World War II. He added that what’s happening with artificial intelligence right now is the third technology revolution. Further, he warned that as machine learning and AI eliminate jobs as people move into a world where they only work four hours a day, that revolution could cause World War III.
He added that it would be unwise to make machines like humans. Instead, he said we should make machines able to do things humans can’t do and that machines will never be able to understand what it’s like to be human. But if humanity goes to war with the machines, he predicts that humans will win.