Machines Should Only Do What Humans Cannot: Jack Ma

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Can machines take over the jobs of humans? The long-standing war between machines and humans to establish one's supremacy over the other has gotten aggressive with the soaring number of layoffs in not just start-ups, but also in top-notch, multinational companies (MNCs).


The internet boom and the impact of machine learning in businesses have dealt a body blow to the employment rate, which, in turn, is affecting the economy drastically.

In his speech at a conference on entrepreneurship in Zhengzhou, China, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. Chairman Jack Ma said the society should be prepared for decades of pain as the Net is and will continue to disrupt the economy.

Over-dependence on technology and the penetration of robotics and artificial intelligence technologies have left humans' potentials unutilized, he rued, adding a negative trend had been set for the years to come.

Addressing the gathering at the forum, Ma said, "Machines should only do what humans cannot. This is the only way we can keep machines as working partners of humans, rather than their replacements."

Emphasizing on the inexhaustible use of the internet, Ma referred to the various e-commerce models, claiming he tried to warn people that digital commerce would disrupt traditional retailers, but only a few had paid heed to him. This time he wanted to warn against the impact of new technologies and it would not sound alarming now as people have started acknowledging the negative impact of digital rage.

Recent reports have revealed that the major reason behind job cuts is the advancement of technology and a general inclination towards automation. IT giants like Infosys, Cognizant and Wipro have sacked more than 8,000 employees in the past one year owing to automation of lower-level jobs.

Also, many e-commerce companies like Snapdeal and AskMe have made major layoffs in the previous and the current years. Clearly, the story of firing employees is not just specific to India. All over the world people are being fired because of the widespread automation. Ma said people needed to be re-skilled and the education system should be overhauled to make it industry-oriented.

"The situation can only improve if significant changes are made to the world's education system," he stressed.

Indian Labour Bureau's report based on the Fifth Annual Employment & Unemployment Survey, 2016, revealed unemployment rate in India had shot up to 5 per cent at a five-year high on an annual basis. More women have lost jobs (8.7 per cent) compared to men (4.3 per cent).

"Policies on artificial intelligence should be chalked out to put a stop on job losses," said the Chairman.