Ma said around 15 years ago he gave two or three hundred speeches warning about the impact of e-commerce and the internet on traditional businesses, but not many people listened as he wasn’t well-known.

The billionaire warned that any business not linked to the internet could suffer in the future.

Ma also spoke about the rise of robots and artificial intelligence (AI) and said that this technology will be needed to process the large amount of data being generated today, something that a human brain can’t do. But machines shouldn’t replace what humans can do, Ma said, but instead the technology community needs to look at making machines do what humans cannot. This would make the machine a “human partner” rather than an opponent.

But he did admit that AI was likely to lead to people living longer and fewer jobs around. And robots could also replace chief executives of companies.

“30 years later, the Time Magazine cover for the best CEO of the year very likely will be a robot. It remembers better than you, it counts faster than you, and it won’t be angry with competitors,” Ma said.

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