Alibaba founder Jack Ma: AI will cause people more pain than happiness

The billionaire said key social conflict will be the rise of artificial intelligence and longer life expectancy, which will lead to aging workforce fighting for fewer jobs

Artificial intelligence and other technologies will cause people more pain than happiness over the next three decades, according to Jack Ma, the billionaire chairman and founder of Alibaba.

Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life, said Ma, speaking at an entrepreneurship conference in China about the job disruptions that would be created by automation and the internet. A key social conflict will be the rise of artificial intelligence and longer life expectancy, which will lead to an aging workforce fighting for fewer jobs.

Ma, who is usually more optimistic in his presentations, issued the warning to encourage businesses to adapt or face problems in the future. He said that 15 years ago he gave hundreds of speeches warning about the impact of e-commerce on traditional retailers and few people listened because he wasnt as well-known as he is now.

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.

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 wont be swayed by emotions, for example by getting angry at competitors.

Leaders who dont understand that cloud computing and artificial intelligence are essential for business should identify young people in their companies to explain it to them, he said.

His comments echo a number of studies suggesting that automation will eliminate jobs, including a Forrester study that suggested 6% of all jobs in the US would be eliminated by 2021. The job displacement will start with customer service representatives and eventually move to truck and taxi drivers, the report read.

Current technologies in this field include virtual assistants, such as Alexa, Cortana, Siri and Google Now, as well as chatbots and automated robotic systems. For now they are quite simple, but over the next five years they will become much better at making decisions on our behalf in more complex scenarios, which will enable mass adoption of breakthroughs, such as self-driving cars.

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