Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma, in an interview to CNBC, said the rising technological advancements in artificial intelligence could lead to World War III. Speaking to the news channel, the billionaire Chinese business magnate said there is a need for the world leaders to educate people about the pain that the rapid rise in automation and artificial intelligence will bring.
“The first technology revolution caused World War I. The second technology revolution caused World War II. This is the third technology revolution,” he said. “People are already unhappy because lot of machinery, artificial intelligence is killing lot of jobs,” he added.
By automating routine tasks, and taking over manual labor, AI could free some employees up to simply work less. Ma said in the interview that his grandfather worked 16 hours a day, and modern employees work eight, but we will work even fewer hours in the future. "I think in the next 30 years, people only work four hours a day and maybe four days a week," Ma told CNC.
He said that the opportunities that he sees in the evolution of AI and in globalisation are the reasons he travels so much. He says that on his many trips he is “talking to all the government and state leaders and telling them move fast”.
Ma has previously warned about the dangers of slowing international trade, saying at the opening of Alibaba's Australian's headquarters in February, "If trade stops, war starts."
In Ma's view, the worker displacement from these new technologies and the economic stress it could place on political systems may lead to conflict as some people will be big winners from the changes while others will get left behind.
"The next 30 years, the technology is going to challenge a lot of jobs opportunities," Ma said. "So if we cannot help the local businesses going global, it's going to cause a lot of problems."
The education system should account for this by better preparing students for automation's effect on the workplace, Ma said. Machines should primarily be created to complement the abilities of humans, performing tasks that humans cannot do, he argued. However, if AI does go to war with humanity, Ma said that "humans will win."
Mr Ma is the richest person in Asia and one of the 20 richest in the world, thanks to the booming success of e-commerce giant Alibaba.
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