back to article Alibaba's Jack Ma says: Relax, we're too wise for robots to take our jobs

Everybody chill. Alibaba founder Jack Ma says we don't need to worry about robots taking our jobs. Phewee. A paper published in March by US non-profit the National Bureau of Economic Research found that employment and wages in industries using robots fell between 1990 and 2007. Some thinkfluencers *cough* Elon Musk *cough* go …

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    1. Chris King

      Re: Famous last words.

      Anyone else imagining a future robot standing over a future Jack Ma, yelling "GET BACK TO WORK, MEATBAG - YOU WERE ALLOWED A TOILET BREAK LAST WEEK" ?

    2. Flakk

      Re: Famous last words.

      If we were more concerned about our future than with the shiny-shiny, we might have paid more attention.

      Agreed. A healthy understanding of our past (who we are, why we are who we are, how did we get where we're at and why) would probably help us to avoid some painful own goals, too.

      1. Lars Silver badge

        Re: Famous last words.

        "A healthy understanding of our past (who we are, why we are who we are, how did we get where we're at and why) would probably help us to avoid some painful own goals".

        Yes, that would have prevented the referendum and Brexit.

      2. Mark 85 Silver badge

        Re: Famous last words.

        A healthy understanding of our past (who we are, why we are who we are, how did we get where we're at and why) would probably help us to avoid some painful own goals, too.

        Quite true and while many of us older types were schooled in history plus the "whys", the school systems here in the States are either doing away with it or burying via "condensation into sound bites". The kids have no clue. Once the past lessons are lost, we will be doomed to re-doing those same mistakes.

    3. Lysenko

      Re: Famous last words.

      The Mayan civilization was also pretty clever (and very scientific, too)

      No, they were very religious and consequently invested far too many of their limited resources on useless bullshit like pyramids which are economically valuable only to tourism companies of later centuries. You can point many of the same criticisms at us of course, but that doesn't make the Maya a "scientific" civilization. On the contrary, they were remarkably North American, as is illustrated by the strong correlation between climate change denial[1] with belief that angels are real and prayer works.

      [1] The Maya still exist of course, but the classic Maya civilization fell long before Columbus arrived because of drought, over-exploitation of agricultural resources and the belief that pouring ever more resources into Gods and Religion could fix things. The Romans, on the other hand, might read some auspices and pray to Jupiter - but then they would go and build an aqueduct or dig a canal.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Famous last words.

        Yes, but apart from aqueducts and canals, what have the Romans ever done for us?

        Sorry, too easy a target.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Famous last words.

          The Romans left us duplicates of all the high points of the ancient Greek civilization, just in case the originals were lost to history. Nice of them, don'tcha think?

        2. naive

          Re: Famous last words.

          Maybe they left us a baseline which serves as a measure for our own civilization.

          If Europe had not been put in 1000 years of darkness due to the rise of Christianity, we would by now be able to make a round trip to Mars within one hour.

  2. Hasham

    Bravo, Jack Ma

    Any form of Anti-Syntheticism is not welcome in this world. I'm imagining those bigots now, marching, waving their red flags, a white circle in the centre, holding a black double helix, smashing all the Synthetics they can get their vicious hands on.

    1. Rajiv_Chaudri

      Re: Bravo, Jack Ma

      "Any form of Anti-Syntheticism is not welcome in this world"

      Robot Lives Matter.

      As a disadvantaged form of being, Robots need Affirmative Action to place them into more jobs.

      And we need Robot hiring quotas in the work place ASAP. Not enough robots are being equally represented.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bravo, Jack Ma

      Flight Of The Chonchords video?

  3. colinb


    Just Ma rubbish, we are on an inexorable path to the machine which will give us 'The Answer'

    Twitter's AI is really leading the way forward here...

    Allowing Trump tweets that might ramp up to World War Three and blocking an Actor speaking out about sexual assault for using a playground epithet.

    The best 'AI Wisdom' billions can buy, tremble before its might.

  4. Erik4872

    Not sure he's thinking about the entire population

    I've heard lots of predictions about what will happen when the vast majority of humans can't sell their labor anymore, and most of the rosy ones don't take everyone into account. Consider these 2 extremes (and this is in the white collar world; blue collar is a whole other kettle of fish:)

    1. Hipster full-stack web developer sitting around a cafeteria table with 10 other hipster developers at a San Francisco startup, building web scale apps and getting paid a fortune, living at work doing 16 hour days with basically no concept of a life outside work. These are most often the people who say a robot-filled future will enable humans to have jobs that "don't feel like work."

    2. Systems Analyst III, buried in some dark corner of a large corporation or state government, with an extremely narrow focus paper-processing and report-generating job. Their job consists of following the same set of unchanging rules, and is often designed to not allow them to deviate from those rules. (Big corporate IT has more of these positions than people think...yay ITIL!) This employee comes in on time and leaves exactly when their shift is over, has no desire to spend their entire life at work, and often hates their job but needs it and the security it provides.

    From my experience in the real world, there are way more #2s than their are #1s. This is going to sound mean, but I think that most people are only capable of holding down one of the #2 jobs, simply because we don't need 7 billion visionary thought leaders and elite scientists. The problem is that modern society is built around middle-level educated white collar workforces coming to an office and processing paper all day long. Millions of students come out of universities every year with a generic BS in "management." Up until lately, large corporations would take in almost all of these graduates and put them to work doing some random task. These students would have something of a career path...associate analyst, senior analyst, supervisor, manager, director, etc...and they would earn and consume at an appropriate level throughout it. Switching everyone to unemployment, a fixed income, or minimum wage work is going to break the consumption cycle. A process-follower cannot be a data scientist.

  5. rmason


    Says the bloke whose company is pushing for a robotic solutions in itheir own warehouses.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we have some secret sauce that would keep us in charge"

    It's called oil.

    In your face robot overlords.

    1. colinb

      Human fat makes a serviceable oil when rendered down.


      Robot Overload Esq.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's called oil

      And why we should put a power switch on everything.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Today assembly line robots and burger flippers - Tomorrow: Heartless Bureaucrats

    Ahh. Ignoring what is even meant by AI: Does Mr Ma not imagine that improvements in computer capabilities will not result in more jobs being lost due to computerization?

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