Jack Ma: “Don’t be evil is not enough — technology companies must help the world”

By Luke Christou

Developing the technologies that are expected to — and in many cases are already beginning to — shape the future, technology companies must do more to protect the earth and humanity from the problems they create, Jack Ma, founder and chairman of Alibaba, has warned.

Questioned on sustainability at during a Meet the Leader discussion at the World Economic Forum, Ma expressed that, despite the concerns that new technologies raise, innovation in the industry offers a lot of benefits to humanity.

“First, as a technology company, we believe that technology is great for human beings. We believe that technology can create a lot of jobs,” Ma said.

However, China’s richest man did not neglect the fact that technology also brings with plenty of worries. Data privacy and cybersecurity are two such concerns that resulted with the rapid innovation in computer technology in recent years. Yet, according to Ma, there problems do not necessarily make the cause, in this case technology, a bad thing, so long as these concerns and addressed and managed.

“When in the early stage, every technology creates worries,” Ma said. “Worries, if you do not manage them well, creates problems.”

In charge of managing those worries, is technology companies like Alibaba. According to Ma, technology companies shouldn’t just be looking to “don’t be evil” – a nod to the slogan used by Google – but developing the technologies that better the world and help to overcome the concerns that technology has raised.

“As a technology company, don’t be evil is not enough,” Ma said. “You should be doing good things for the world.”

“Do good things for the world, do good things for the future, and believe in young people.”

How technology can solve the world’s problems

According to Ma, Alibaba, which generated $37bn in revenue in 2018, is no longer a business focused on making money. Instead, Alibaba is focused on overcoming global issues such as climate change.

“Enivronment is a big issue, it’s a big problem. The earth probably can handle 3 billion people, that would be the best. Now we’ve got seven to eight billion. Probably we’re going to have 10 billion or 12 billion. More problems come.”

“This is why I think Alibaba has a lot of things to do. Not only for making money. Making money is something early days its important, now it’s not that important.”

“How we can use technology to change, to improve, to be increasive, to be sustainable and green.”

According to Ma, the answer isn’t necessarily stopping the use of natural resources to generate energy, but using technology to make the process more efficient and lower the amount that we use.

“We still need oil, we still need the coals, we still need the wood,” Ma said. “But the data can show us how to use it efficiently, smartly, and that is what we think we can do.”