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

Ma was a resource speaker at a recent entrepreneurship conference in China. There 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 into the corporate world. He notes that robots are not only faster but also more rational than humans, stressing that they don’t get affected by emotions. This fact keeps them from getting angry at competitors or customers.

Jack Ma is Optimistic About Robots, Despite Challenges

In spite of his concerns, Jack 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 4 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 idea 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.

a robot hand and a human hand in a handshake amid the possible reality of a robot CEO in the future
Jack Ma is pushing for a partnership and cooperation between humans and machines.

Other Things to Consider Other Than A Robot CEO

Perhaps Ma’s warning is a pointed challenge to CEOs and executive boards who have had 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 job as CEO may also be lost to a robot CEO, it may bring all sides together to find creative solutions that offer better, richer lives to everyone.

Robotics offers great promise to humanity. Nevertheless, it is also disruptive. Jack Ma and others like him call upon the leaders of business to chart a path forward that benefits everyone—especially now that the idea of a robot CEO is not unlikely in the future.

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