Alibaba founder Jack Ma's Speech at the Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club 2017

19 Oct 2017

Alibaba group founder Jack Ma took part in the final plenary session of the 14th annual meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club titled The World of the Future: Moving Through Conflict to Cooperation. Below is the transcript of his speech:
Mr. President Putin,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great honour to be invited. I was sitting there thinking why I should have been invited earlier. When I hear so many worries and fears that makes me feel that I am a very happy person because I do not have that much to worry about. I know I have a lot to worry about, but I do not have to worry as much as the Presidents have to worry about.
I was born in 1960s, in a country, China, full of Soviet movies, and stories and sounds. So I think Russia and China share a lot of similarities. Both countries came from a lot of problems, and came from a lot of suspicion. But every time I come to Russia, I feel more and more confidence in Russia, especially this time in Moscow. I spent three days walking around and looking around. I see that the city is getting cleaner. There is more order and, of course, more traffic. This is why we think that Alibaba should join forces with the development of Russia.
Yesterday I went to Moscow University, and I had a wonderful time with the young people, the talents there. I see their anxiety, and I see their creativity and the imagination the young people have in Russia. I think Alibaba should have the great opportunity to work with Russian young scientists, engineers, to develop something that is good for the future, for tomorrow.
Last year, I flew in the air for 867 hours, and I have been to many countries. I feel that the world is full of worries and fears. The area I worry about, an area a lot of people worry about, is technology. I think when we worry about technology, and worry that the technology will destroy our future, I think that if we have more imagination, if we have more confidence, we will feel much better.
In 1995, when I started my internet business in China, I was invited to join a group of experts, IT Expert Discussion, in Beijing, about 30 people. We sat in a room discussing how terrible the internet will be, what are the things we should worry about, any policy we should make. We had a whole night discussing the worries about the internet. Today, twenty years past, those things we worried about never came up. Those things we never worried about all came up.
I am very thankful for those worries, because this gave Alibaba opportunity. We did not have a lot of smart competitors join us. We grew so fast over the past 18 years, today we create more than 33 million jobs for China, and we ourselves made last year over $550 billion. Where other people worry, we try to figure out the way how to solve the worries.
Today, many things have changed, but people still worry about internet. They even worry more. It reminds me of the yearly days when people worried about cars, when automobiles were designed. People worried more about car accidents, rather the great things that the car would bring to human lives. I noticed that people worry about data, about privacy, people worry about security. I think that the worst thing we should worry about is the worry itself. A lot of countries, because of worry, they lose a lot of things. In Europe today, we do not see a lot of big internet companies. One of the reasons is that they worry too much, I think. The worry will stop us from being more creative, being more confident, and stop young people from getting more opportunities. We do not have solutions for the future, but there are solutions for the future. We do not have solutions for tomorrow, but our young people will have solutions for tomorrow.
Yesterday, when I saw young people at Moscow University, I know they are trying their best. I think they will have solutions for the future. So trust the young people, trust our future. Young people never worry about their future. In all the universities I go to, everyone I speak to, people never worry about the future. They worry about us. They worry about stupid decisions we make for them. Most of the stupid policy decisions we made are all out of great intentions, and are taken with kindness. This is something the young people worry about. I have been working in Alibaba. We have 60,000 great, excellent young people from all over the world. In order to lead them, to lead those smart people, they need a stupid leader like me. They need to stay foolish, stay optimistic, and always try to find solutions for tomorrow. This is how I work with smart people.
Today the world has 1.8 billion people using internet. They speak, they check information, they communicate, and do all those things you can do through the internet. But they are not happy, because today young people do not want to be informed, they want to get involved. My grandfather got all the information through a newspaper. My father got information through the radio. I got my information from TV. We were all told to do this. But the internet gives young people the opportunity to get involved. They want to be the masters of themselves. Very soon, we are going to have four to five billion people on the internet. All the problems we have today will become bigger problems, if we do not see this with great optimism.
The other thing I wanted to say is that if there is something we should really worry about, is we should worry about the education system. Whether you like or do not like it, the technology revolution is coming. Nobody can stop it. But the way we teach our kids, the curriculums we teach our kids, the subjects we teach our kids, will stop our kids from getting jobs. Because one thing is sure: the computer is going to be much smarter than human beings. If we keep on teaching our kids the way we taught over the past one hundred years, our kids will be losing jobs or will not be able to find jobs over the next thirty years. Computers can remember better, computers can calculate better, computers never have this kind of human anguish. This is something we should teach our kids: to be more creative. We should teach our kids to be more innovative. We should teach our kids to be more constructive.
I want every government to pay special attention to the education system over the next 30 years. We worry about data technology, but data technology is something that might be the solution to solve the world’s sustainability, solve the world problem of inclusiveness. We are entering into a new world, but very few people really understand how powerful it is, how revolutionary it is. If you do not think positively, you will not have a positive result. If you think negative, you will surely have a negative result. Today we worry, we feel pain about the internet. But I would tell you: we are not even entering the growing pain of internet technology. Every technology takes about fifty years. The first twenty years is about internet technology companies. The next thirty years is about the application of this technology. The next thirty years will be the years when the technology of those companies will be used to do good. The car was not invented in America, but America made use of it. Electricity was not invented in America, but America used it.
People talk about the digital time, and IT time. I would say, the world is shifting from IT to DT. DT is not the Digital Time. It is Data Time. Digital Time is the upgraded version of IT Time. DT is totally different from IT. I do not have time to explain it. Someday we will have a better time to discuss it.
Data Time is a new theory. Data technology is the solution to solve a lot of problems we have today. For example, people worry about privacy, people worry about security. We use data to use internet technology, to use internet financing. We have given loans to over five million small businesses. Every small business gets a loan from us of less than $5,000. The procedure is 3–1–0. They apply within three minutes. Within one second the money will be on the account, and zero people touch it. So the 3–1–0 approach solves a lot of problems for increasing financing. This is what data brings us. IT technology makes us strong. DT technology is to empower the others. With IT technology, we compete with knowledge. With DT technology, we compete with wisdom. IT technology we compete with muscle. DT technology – we compete with brain. IT makes us know the world better. DT will know the human being better.
People always say, what is the difference between smart and wise? Smart people know what they want. Wise people know what they do not want. This is what we believe. DT is the human behaviour. By learning the behaviours, we will understand ourselves better. When we understand ourselves better, we will know what we do not want. I believe that the world has a lot of worries and a lot of problems, because we want too much. A lot of things we want, we get, but actually we do not want them. In the IT Time, 20 percent of the countries succeed, and 80 percent of the countries do not have a chance. IT is 20/80, but DT is 80/20. We have to care for those 80 percent of the countries, developing countries, young people, and small businesses. We should ensure that the technology is inclusive.
About globalisation, I think globalisation has nothing wrong. But globalisation today is not perfect. It is only a baby. One thousand years ago, global trade was determined by a few kings and queens. The last thirty or forty years, globalisation benefited only 60,000 big companies. What if we can support 60 million small and medium-sized companies that can grow global trade? What if we can help young people so that they can buy, sell, pay, deliver and travel globally?
We think that over the last century, massive, large-scale standardisation is the key. This century, with personal-made, with small and medium-sized companies we may have a lot of things that are different. I want to say that with DT Time, the world will be different. We can make the world more fair. We will make the technology to empower more young people, more small businesses. Our businesses grow, because we support using technology, support young people only, we support SME only. Globalisation can never be stopped, because the world is movable.
The other thing is that we should never stop trade. When trade stops, war starts. Trade is something to build trust. When we build trade, we respect the other culture. When we do trade, it means that we appreciate the other culture. So we should encourage more trade. We should encourage more young people, small and big business to engage across the board. I think that the world needs not only a G20, we also need a G200. The world should not only have a B20, but also a B200.
Of course, the way we do trade will be totally different. We are not going to do trade going to trade shows, trade fairs. Most of the business will be done on the internet. In the future, the trade will not be done through containers. Trade will be done through packages. In the future business will not be B2C. In the future, the business will be C2B. This is what we believe. We think in the future there will be no Made in China, no Made in America, no Made in Russia. It is going to be Made in internet. You can design here, transport there, manufacture in this country. The thing is that we should not worry that trade will stop. We should worry about what kind of policies we should use to encourage global trade. With what kind of policies we can encourage young people, small businesses?
Finally, I want to say that DT technology will kill a lot of jobs. But most of these jobs are stupid jobs. These jobs are not supposed to be done by computers, are not supposed to be done by human beings. Over the past one hundred years, we made people like a machine. Now we make machines like people. But the right way to do it is to make over the next ten-twenty years a machine like a machine and people like people. A machine will never be able to conquer human beings. Machines are smart, machines are stronger and faster, but a machine does not have a soul, does not have values, does not have a belief that people have. So we should not make a machine think like a human being. We should make a machine learn like human beings.
This is what I want finally to say: technology is scary. The first technology revolution caused World War I. The second technology revolution caused, directly or indirectly, World War II. Now we are in the third technology revolution. What if a Third World War? If the human beings do not have the same enemy, we will fight among ourselves. The enemy should be poverty, the enemy should be environment, the enemy should be disease. I think that all those countries: China, Russia, USA, European, should share the technology, unite together to fight this war, and this is the war that, if we fight it together, young people will be much happier.
Finally, the bad news is that we are entering into a world that we do not know. The good news is no one knows. Please pay special attention to the next thirty years. Please, pay special attention to those people who are below 30 years old, because they might be the leaders of tomorrow. They are the challengers, they are the changers. Please, pay attention to those companies who have less than 30 employees. If we pay attention to small, and small is powerful, small is beautiful, and if we pay attention to the young people, small businesses, I think that the world economy could be much more sustainable.
Thank you very much.
19 Oct 2017

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