Date
21 October 2017
Disruptions caused by the internet and new technologies will cause a lot of pain for many people in the world in the coming decades, according to Jack Ma. Photo: Xinhua
Disruptions caused by the internet and new technologies will cause a lot of pain for many people in the world in the coming decades, according to Jack Ma. Photo: Xinhua

Why Jack Ma thinks we’ll see more pain than happiness in future

You are not Jack Ma if you cannot impress your audience with some golden quotes that challenge your orthodox thinking.

At an entrepreneurship conference in Zhengzhou, the Alibaba chairman made a point about who our closest companion is.

“When we wake up at night, the first thing we touch is not our wife, but mobile phone,” said Ma, noting that the cellphone has almost become an extension of the body and that it will possibly stay with us longer than the spouse or parents.

The mobile phone is not just our tightest accessory, it is also our most powerful assistant.

Ma said he had just one demand when his team was developing the popular payment gateway Alipay: offer an old lady the same power as that held by, say, the chief executive of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, in making payments with the press of a few buttons.

In other comments, Ma predicted that the world would see much more pain than happiness in the next 30 years due to disruptions brought about by the internet and new technologies.

“Social conflicts in the next three decades will have an impact on all sorts of industries and walks of life,” said Ma, adding that improved understanding of artificial intelligence, for one, is key to resolving the conflicts arising from the rise of the internet. 

Such understanding itself would be a source of unhappiness, I reckon.

Now, we need to ask this question: Are our most high-profile internet tycoons really happy?

Let’s examine what the Alibaba founder has said about his own life.

“I feel like I own nothing,” said Ma. “I do not have time to spend money, and I do not think money is that important to me today.”

“Spending money is an art, especially to people like me, I do not know how to spend money.”

Come to think of it, time is a luxury for rich entrepreneurs.

Why else, for example, would someone like Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg or Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs always be seen wearing the same clothes every day?

Ma has stressed that rich people aren’t always happy people, noting that his happiest moment was the time before Alibaba when he only made 90 yuan per month.

All this from a man whose net worth — according to Forbes — is now estimated at over US$28 billion, making him the 23rd richest person on the earth.

Too bad he is way above the happiness line.

Ma said last year that China’s happiest people are the middle class who make 20,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan per month and those whose net worth doesn’t exceed 10 million yuan. [See previous reports]

But let’s not worry about Ma too much because he only has short memory.

“My brain is relatively small, so I only have little RAM,” the Chinese tech tycoon said on Sunday. “I tend to forget everything about yesterday but I am curious as to what will happen tomorrow.”

Well, he will probably be richer, but not far too happy.

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BK/AC/RC

EJ Insight writer

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