The disruption will even reach into the C-suites at major companies, Ma predicts, as robots are quicker and more rational than humans, and don’t get bogged down in emotions — getting angry at competitors, for example.
“In 30 years, a robot will likely be on the cover of Time magazine as the best CEO,” according to Ma.
To prevent social upheaval, the world must change its approach to education and establish ways to work with robots to soften the blow of automation, Ma said.
It was an unusually gloomy prediction from Ma, who typically likes to stay upbeat about the future as he builds Alibaba, an online powerhouse which sometimes is called the “Amazon of China.”
“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.
Nevertheless, Ma also sounded a hopeful note about the relationship between humans and robots in the long run — in contrast to Silicon Valley honchos like Elon Musk, who have warned that artificial intelligence poses a threat to humanity.
“Machines will do what human beings are incapable of doing,” Ma said. “Machines will partner and co-operate with humans, rather than become mankind’s biggest enemy.”