In an interview at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos where a level of candor and honesty rarely seen among industry leaders in today’s global market was achieved, Alibaba Executive Chairman and founder Jack Ma spoke at great length about some of the most pressing challenges existing in today’s world.
Covering an array of topics that encompassed a number of perspectives, his words somehow seemed to resonate with almost everyone in attendance for the January 24th event. His words were concise, yet meaningful. The World Economic Forum started on Tuesday of this week and will wrap up on Friday.
“If we don’t align together, human beings are going to fight each other, because each technology revolution makes the world unbalanced.”
He dived right in by starting with the massive impact of technology, focusing on its transformative power, as well as its potentially destructive aspects: “We are very lucky because the world is in a big transformation because of technology. This new technology will create a lot of successful people, interesting careers but honestly, every new technology will create social problems." He continued, “If we don’t align together, human beings are going to fight each other, because each technology revolution makes the world unbalanced.”
Later, with a flair for words that reveal his position in Alibaba as 1/3 entrepreneur, 1/3 showman, and 1/3 business strategist, he spoke on the very pressing subject of Women in Business: “If you want your company to be successful; if you want your company to operate with wisdom, with care, then women are the best. 37% of senior management in Alibaba are women. Part of the 'secret sauce' of our success is because we have so many women colleagues.”
"To gain success a person will need high EQ; if you don't want to lose quickly you will need a high IQ, and if you want to be respected you need high LQ - the IQ of love," Jack Ma said.
In the middle of the wise observations, he interjected a personal story about his humble beginnings: they center around him realizing that in spite of the lack of educational support existing around him when he was younger, he still chose to challenge his circumstances. These words fit in very well with his observations about learning from failure, revealing in many ways his unique approach to cultivating a true understanding of what success means: “Learn from your mistakes—no matter how smart you are you will learn from them. We must share the mistakes with others. My thinking is that—if you want to be successful, learn from the other peoples’ mistakes, don’t learn from success stories. The book I want to write is Alibaba: 1,001 Mistakes.”
The only occasion in which he crossed the line into the political was in sharing his opinion on globalization: “Globalization is a growing pain. It is so easy to launch a trade war[,] but it is so difficult to stop a trade war and I'm scared and concerned.”
“Artificial intelligence, [and] big data is a threat to human beings. I think AI should support human beings. Technology should always do something that enables people, not disable people."
Beyond sharing wisdom gained from his personal experiences as well as perspectives, perhaps the most thoughtful statements were about embracing a humanistic approach to artificial intelligence: “Artificial intelligence, [and] big data is a threat to human beings. I think AI should support human beings. Technology should always do something that enables people, not disable people. The computer will always be smarter than you are; they never forget, they never get angry. But computers can never be as wise a man. The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs, because in the future it'll be done by machines. Service industries offer hope—but they must be done uniquely.”
With no ego and no agenda, he also delivers a very clear message to tech giants, acknowledging their tremendous responsibility: “Google, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba—we are the luckiest companies of this century. But we have the responsibility to have a good heart, and do something good. Make sure that everything you do is for the future.”