As politicians argue for internet regulations, Alibaba’s Jack Ma has words of warning
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As politicians argue for internet regulations, Alibaba’s Jack Ma has words of warning

Politicians at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have been vocal about their desire to see regulation of the technology sector. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that his country’s hosting of the 2019 G20 summit would be used to advocate for international guidelines over data use, saying: “I would like Osaka G20 to be long remembered as the summit that started worldwide data governance.”

Voices raised in agreement came from Germany (Chancellor Angela Merkel), South Africa (President Cyril Ramaphosa) and China (Vice President Wang Qishan). One prominent name who is less than thrilled by the prospect of tech regulation, however, is Jack Ma. And he makes a persuasive argument against it.

Alibaba’s share price has increased by 13% so far this year

graph 31 alibaba

Source: Yahoo Finance

At an event sponsored by Alibaba and the World Bank, Mr. Ma set out his arguments against regulation. Saying he was “not a person who likes regulation first,” he pointed out that we were still at “the very, very, early stages of technology” and hobbling future progress with far-reaching rules was short sighted. In a memorable metaphor, he told listeners: “We should not make a pair of shoes for a three-year-old boy and say ‘All your life, you have to wear these shoes’. We know so little about the future.”

Ma added that technology had been a positive force in the world, saying: “From my experience, I think technology has empowered the small business – the women, the disabled, the rural areas,” and claimed that fears over job losses, data security, and tech monopolies may be understandable – but are ultimately overblown.

The crux of Ma’s argument? A dire warning about the future. For if we install strict regulation now and then technological advancement stalls: “what will our kids do?

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alibaba in its Global Trends Ecommerce Fund.


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