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‘Decades of pain’ ahead, warns Jack Ma

Society should prepare for decades of pain as the internet disrupts the economy, warns Alibaba Group Holding chairman Jack Ma.

He told an entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou that the world needed to change its education systems and establish how to work with robots to help soften the blow caused by automation and the internet economy.

“In the next 30 years, the world will see much more pain than happiness,” said Ma. “Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and in all walks of life.”

He told the China Entrepreneur Club that in the early days of e-commerce he had tried to warn people it would disrupt traditional retailers and the like, but few listened. This time, he wanted to warn against the impact of new technologies so no-one would 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.

He also warned that longer lifespans and better artificial intelligence were likely to lead to both aging labour forces and fewer jobs.

“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 replacements.”
The Alibaba co-founder was also critical of the traditional banking industry, saying lending must be available to more members of society. He said the lack of a robust credit system drove up costs for everyone.

Meanwhile, China’s largest e-commerce company is spending billions of dollars to move into new businesses from film production and video streaming, to finance and cloud computing, reports Bloomberg. The Hangzhou-based company, considered a barometer of Chinese consumer sentiment, is looking to expand abroad since buying control of Lazada Group to establish a foothold in Southeast Asia.

This story first appeared on sister site, Inside Retail Asia. 

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