Alibaba's Jack Ma suggests technology could result in a new world war

  • Ma said that history shows technological innovation is a primary factor behind global conflicts.
  • It's not the first time the business leader has made such a warning — he made a similar comment in 2017.
  • In reference to the Google motto "don't be evil," Ma said that tech firms not being evil is "not enough."
Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma gestures during a pannel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 23, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.
Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images
Alibaba Group co-founder and executive chairman Jack Ma gestures during a pannel session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting, on January 23, 2019 in Davos, eastern Switzerland.

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma has warned that technology could lead to a third world war.

The Alibaba founder said Wednesday that history shows technological innovation is a primary factor behind global conflicts.

"The first world war was because of the first technology revolution," he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. "The second technology revolution caused the second world war."

"This is the third technology revolution — we're coming," Ma added.

It's not the first time the business leader has made such a warning, however. In 2017, he made a similar comment, saying that developments in machine learning and artificial intelligence were likely to result in World War III.

Similar ominous remarks have been made by another tech billionaire — Elon Musk. The Tesla chief executive said last year that competition among governments to be leaders in the field of AI was likely to cause WWIII.

On the topic of robots and AI, Ma stressed the importance of education, saying that young people should be able to "do things machines can't do."

'Don't be evil' not enough

Despite his renewed warning, Alibaba's executive chairman said he was still a believer in technology's potential to do good.

He highlighted climate change as an area where tech can be used in a way that benefits society. Data, for instance, could help experts use fossil fuels "efficiently" and "smartly," he said.

Ma said that he believes technology is "great" for humanity, but he added that not being evil was "not enough."

"I'm not a technology person, but I'm a believer that technology is great for human beings," Ma said. "And as a technical company, don't be evil is not enough."

"You should do good things for the world, do good things for the future and believe in young people."

The "don't be evil'" phrase was a motto used by Google and was part of its internal corporate code of conduct since 2000. Most mentions of the phrase were taken out of the code last year, although it still appears in the last sentence of the document.

WATCH:Forget 9-to-5. Four hour workdays are the future, says Jack Ma