Trumping Automation & Artificial Intelligence
A news snipped caught my attention: Over the next 20 years 47% of US jobs are at risk to disappear due to automation and artificial intelligence. That’s a pretty intense number. These figures come from a report conducted by the Oxford Martin School which researches global challenges. Talk about a global challenge!
My immediate thought was: How are we going to deal with this? The distribution of opportunities and wealth are already askew and I wonder what will this further shift in opportunities do.
A very brief background: The Martin School report suggest that we’ve seen polarisation of occupations with most moving to either the low or high end of the skill spectrum. In the past few decades computerisation made many mid-level occupations, like telephone operators, book keepers or cashiers, redundant. The mid-level labor force subsequently adapted by moving either up the scale through education or simply downgrading to a lower skilled job. With the next stage of computerisation and widespread adoption of automation and artificial intelligence (AAI) many of the low-skill level jobs, like taxi drivers and construction workers will become redundant. And the question is where will that labor force move? Further down the spectrum I’m not sure is possible and to the other high-skill side might not be a realistic option. There are a few things that might happen:
- Better Education: One possibility is that the technology that is creating this shift will allow for a better distribution of information allowing people to easily educate themselves. Think Wikipedia and MOOC.
- New Industries: These new technologies might also create new demands and new opportunities for businesses and startups which could create new jobs.
- Universal Income: And then there is this idea that everyone should receive a livable basic income, no matter what. Our society is creating a lot of value collectively and AAI might make that even more so. Things could become incredibly cheap, especially if we can create energy at a low cost (and reliably), producing something will essentially be the cost of the raw material. Albert Wenger has been thinking about this and is writing a book called World After Capital (writing still in progress). Switzerland even had a referendum, which ultimately was rejected.
Whatever the solution it will have to be inclusive and large scale enough to be effective. That means not community or city wide but country sized. The solution will probably have to be driven by both a the business/private sector and governments with policy changes, research, education and startups creating a new support framework.
Who’s going to lead the way? Looking at Trump I’m not sure his focus on fossil fuel and strong arming trade agreements is the way forward. They seem like quick crowd pleasers but not sustainable solutions for the future. Especially if automated robots start building the wall there won’t be any new jobs created. And then there is China, standing by, willing to do business.
What do you think?