Jack Ma: Embrace Technology to Solve Problems Instead of Fearing Machines

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Humans understood less than 10 percent of their own brains, and it will be a long time before machines can surpass man. That was Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma’s message at the opening of the 4th World Internet Conference on December 3.

Ma has participated in the World Internet Conference the last four consecutive years. “This year was the 4th World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit. I have participate four times. I come here every year to share my experiences and thoughts over past year, and to gain some new ideas from annual meetings,” he said.

 The Internet has grown from almost nothing during the last 20 years. In the next 30 years, the Internet will go deeper than the sum of all technological revolution in the future. In the future, the Internet will no longer be the Internet of Internet companies, it will be the Internet of all people. It will be everywhere, and no one will live without the Internet. So, instead of worrying about it, we should do something, he said.

Ma said some people worry machines will threaten people and technology will eliminate most jobs. But Ma said it is better to embrace technology and to solve new problems. “Machines will make people’s work more valuable and more dignified. People have souls, beliefs and values. We should be confident that we can control machines,” he said.

Ma said the new era will bring new problems. Only by forming a community to confront our shared future can humans tackle their problem. It is not containers, but express delivery; it is not Made-in-China or Made-in-America, but is Made-on-the-Internet; it is not business-to-consumer, but consumer-to-business. Today’s problem is not the result of globalization, but the incomplete nature of globalization. In the past, the Internet contributed 20 percent of the benefits, but in the future, the proportion will reach 80 percent, Ma said. Today’s Internet companies are favored by the era and have never had such an opportunity before.

Ma said we would earn respect by shouldering responsibilities, and by sharing and benefiting others. It is impossible for any country to solve all its problems. Humans cannot enjoy development unless they are united.

Ma finally said that we should embrace technology and go into a new sharing, inclusive and green era. Only in this way can human society be sustainable and healthy.

Below is a transcript of Ma’s speech:

This year was the 4th World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit. I have participate four times. I come here every year to share my experiences and thoughts over past year, and to gain some new ideas from annual meetings.

Today I want to share three simple ideas:

In the past 20 years, the Internet developed from scratch. And in the next 30 years, the Internet will continue to grow. In the past four years, I flew to many places and learned from everyone I met. Through constant thinking, I have strengthened my thoughts.

The Internet is reaching into every aspect of society, and the technological revolution may be more influential than all technological revolutions of the past. We are discussing the deep-seated problems of cyberspace, especially now that it is becoming more necessary and meaningful.

Over the next 30 years, data will become productive, computing will be a productive force, and the Internet will become a productive relationship. If we have no data and no access to the Internet, it’s going to be a lot scarier than having no electricity during the last 30 years.

Over the next 30 years, the Internet will no longer be the Internet of Internet companies, it will be the Internet of all people. It will be everywhere, and no one will live without it.

So, instead of worrying about cyberspace and digital economy, we should do something.

In recent years, people around the world have worried about new technology and techniques. They worry machines will take their jobs and control humans. They even worry mankind may be destructed by its greatest invention.

More than 200 years ago, when the steam engine was invented, people were worried that machine would take their jobs away. More than 100 years ago, when electricity appeared, people were worried that electricity would take away a lot of work. In fact, new technology doesn’t cause people to lose their jobs: it causes them to make better use of their time. Instead of repetitive tasks, people’s work will innovate and evolve.

In the Qing Dynasty, we resisted the railway, fearing that porters would lose their jobs and affect social stability. Today there are more than 2 million railway workers in China. When containers were invented, porters worried about losing their jobs. Instead, many became boat workers in the ports. The Internet damaged the circulation of newspapers, but former newsboys have become couriers of packages. There are more than 3 million couriers in China. So instead of worrying about it, we should do something. Instead of worrying about technology taking jobs, we should embrace technology and solve new problems.

I believe that machines will make people’s jobs more dignified, valuable and creative. Over the past 30 years, we’ve turned people into machines, and over the next 30 years, we’re going to turn machines into people. But ultimately, we should make machines more like machines and people more like people. The technical trend is unstoppable. Machines have neither soul nor faith, but we humans have a soul, beliefs, values and unique creativity. Humans should believe they can control machines. Man understands less than 10 percent of his own brain: machines can’t surpass humans.

In the new era and through new opportunities, the digital economy will reshape the world economy in a new model. It’s not just China – the whole world is entering a new era. In the new era, we will face new problems and new opportunities.

Only by building a community with a shared future can mankind meet new times and challenges together. The problems humans face are common. The global industrial chain will change radically. It is not containers, but express delivery; it is not Made-in-China or Made-in-America, but is Made-on-the-Internet; it is not business-to-consumer, but consumer-to-business.

What’s more important is that in the next 30 years, manufacturing will no longer be the engine that drives employment. The future manufacturing industry will be the service industry, and the future service industry will be a new type of manufacturing industry. Machines will replace most machinery jobs. Machine learning and artificial intelligence will enable robots to replace many jobs, and people will be engaged in more creative, more innovative and more fulfilling work. The service industry will become the main source of future employment.

Globalization must be more inclusive. Today’s problems are not caused by globalization, but by imperfect globalization. Three hundred years ago, trade was in the hands of several monarchs. Thirty years ago, trade was in the hands of 60,000 large enterprises. But in the future, trade will be in the hands of small and medium enterprises. In the past, only 20 percent of the world’s people benefited from the trade, but in the future, the proportion will be 80 percent. Globalization will give more people a sense of accomplishment, happiness and fulfillment. The world needs not only the G20 or B20, but the G200 and B200. The future cross-border trade is not something produced in one country and sold in another, but to create jobs and value for each other.

Today, Internet enterprises are favored by the era. We have never been endowed with such opportunity nor such wealth. More important is that we should bear greater responsibility. The era has given us technical ability, and in order to match with this era, we must continuously innovate and create new technology. We should win the market by innovation and generate profits through technology. Also, we should earn respect by shouldering responsibility, sharing and being inclusive.

It is impossible for one country, or one company, to solve all the world’s problems. We need to work together, jointly build a shared future, embrace technology and share innovations and achievements. In this way, human society can sustainably develop.

The first technological revolution led to the first world war. The second technological revolution led to the second world war. And with the third technological revolution, it seems possible a third world war may ensue. But this will not be a war between nations, but a war that we join hands to fight disease, poverty and climate change.

I think for the future of humans, all countries should unite. We should believe in young people rather than weapons. We should believe in technology and embrace it instead of worrying about its impact on our vested interests and habitual thinking. We should take the initiative to embrace technology and enter an era of sharing, inclusivity and green development. Only in this way can human society become better, more sustainable and healthier. Thank you!

This article originally appeared in Sina Technology and was translated by Pandaily.

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