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Jack Ma of Alibaba, one of the most influential leaders in China’s e-commerce community, says corporate executives aren’t safe from being taken over by rapid industrialization. He predicted that someday soon, the top CEO could be replaced by a robot.

Fortune Magazine recently named Ma as one of the great leaders in the world. Therefore, CEOs may want to pay attention when Ma says that, “In 30 years, a robot will likely be on the cover of Time Magazine as the best CEO. In the next three decades, the world will experience far more pain than happiness.”

robots should not be treated as “mankind’s biggest enemy.”

Ma was a resource speaker at a recent entrepreneurship conference in China. Here, he enjoined business people and professionals to prepare for the upheaval that developments in technology will bring forth. Jack Ma underscored the need to reform educational systems in order to make kids more creative and equipped to handle changes.

He is greatly concerned with the integration of robots into the workforce, as well as the corporate world. He notes that robots are not only faster but are more rational than humans, stressing that they don’t get affected by emotions. This keeps them from getting angry at competitors or customers.

Ma is Optimistic About Robots, Despite Challenges

robot and human shaking hands
Ma, CEO, says robots may replace executives.

In spite of his concerns, Ma is optimistic that robots will help propel the human race forward. Jack Ma says robots should not be treated as “mankind’s biggest enemy.” He is instead pushing for a partnership and cooperation between humans and machines.

The Alibaba founder also made the bold prediction that technology will allow human workers shorter hours of work.  “In 10 or 20 years, people will work less than four hours a day, maybe three days a week,” Jack Ma said.

The shorter work week, greater abundance and increase in leisure time is exactly what was promised by the futurists decades ago. This was seen as a shining goal in which all of humanity could share. As it has happened though, there have been rough patches along the road. Questions remain as to how to distribute the fruits of these productivity gains, and how mankind will adapt to a life of greater leisure and abundance.

Perhaps Ma’s warning is a pointed challenge to CEOs and executive boards, who have at times seemed cavalier about the disruption created in the lives of ordinary workers as their labor is replaced by machines. By alerting CEOs to the fact that someday their jobs may also be lost to robots, it may bring all sides together to find creative solutions that offer better, richer lives to everyone.

Robotics offers great promise to humanity. It is also disruptive. Jack Ma and others like him call upon the leaders of business to chart a path forward that benefits everyone.

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