I don’t consider myself an alarmist. A Creative Disruptor? Yes, absolutely. That means being on the edge of change with eyes forward to see (perceive?) what is coming. But the two are not the same thing. I’m not running around screaming, “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI)!”.
But the end of most jobs as we know them may be at hand however.
Change is upon us. Dramatic changes. People aren’t ready. Not by a long shot.
In 1930, the influential economist John Maynard Keynes coined the term ” technological unemployment ” to describe what happens when mechanical labor makes human labor obsolete. He predicted that by 2030 we could all be working just 15 hours a week. That hasn’t happened yet, because until now most […]In 1930, the influential economist John Maynard Keynes coined the term “technological unemployment” to describe what happens when mechanical labor makes human labor obsolete. He predicted that by 2030 we could all be working just 15 hours a week. That hasn’t happened yet, because until now most technology has only been able to replace narrow slices of human capability, like physical strength or mathematical calculations.
But things are changing. A recent analysis by McKinsey showed that up to 45% of all current job tasks could be automated with existing technology.
Over the next couple of decades, the artificial intelligence and robotics now emerging from academia and tech companies will be able to substitute for a much broader set of important human skills. They will have the capability to perceive, move in, and manipulate unstructured environments, process information, make decisions, and understand and communicate with people. Many of the tasks that simply had to be done by humans in the past will in the near future fall within their growing capabilities — as we are already seeing with jobs as diverse as security guards, call center workers, and truck drivers.
Strikingly, the President’s annual Economic Report just forecast that over 80% of low wage jobs could be automated in the next 10 to 20 years. The other critical difference with these new technologies is that they will not need to be laboriously programmed by highly skilled, expensive, and hard-to-find engineers.
The hottest technology today is machine learning, a set of computer algorithms that are able to learn to detect patterns, develop strategies, and refine their behavior by analyzing streams of digital data. Rather than relying on programming, AI will learn through trial and error as well as its own observations — meaning it will be deployed much more quickly to take on new tasks in the economy. And it is not just AI and robotics that will disrupt human labor.