Actual Disruptors may or may not be pictured above.

Congrats, you’re a Disruptor. Now pay up.

Half-baked new theory on the ethics of innovation

I had the pleasure of joining an intimate dinner hosted by Fast Company (not pictured above) this week and for the 3rd time in as many days found myself embroiled in a conversation about AI and its impact on industry. It was a room full of smart people talking passionately about the robot apocalypse; in this case, through the lens of self-driving cars and its impact on the humans in the Taxi and Trucking industries.

There were tons of great points around the table about timelines, and augmenting vs. replacing but the one forgone conclusion seemed to be that the continued rise of ever-more sophisticated industry means…

  1. fewer (or NO) jobs
  2. economics collapse in certain geographic areas
  3. hyper concentration of wealth in a few hands.

And while folks brought up the possibility of a Universal Basic Income Tax, there was one thing I didn’t hear from anyone. In fact, one thing that I haven’t heard anywhere in the discussion around what we’re going to do when AI really gets cranking in all of its commercial and industrial:

How can we use the very self same ground-breaking, paradigm-shifting, industry-disrupting technologies to help us figure out what to do with all of these displaced folks and the new normal?

Can we retrain all 3.5mm truck drivers and 250K taxi drivers in the US if their jobs largely go away over the next 10–20 years?

Can we make some of them Road Performance quality control experts? Or algorithm trainers? On-board remote operators in case of emergency for customers willing to pay up for the option? Something else?

How the hell will we figure this out in time?

Technology displacing humans in industry is neither new, nor is it unexpected but for the first time in history we’re possibly looking at an Extinction Level Event for more jobs across more industries than we’ve ever seen before in an unbelievably short period of time.

And this is happening at a time of immense social and political unrest across the entire globe. All of it.

And those with the assets to build or invest in these enabling technologies will reap ALL of the reward. All of it.

And for what it’s worth, fear-mongering politicians (looking at you Captain Oompa-Loompa) are leveraging fear of job loss to pit technologists AGAINST the working class. This is a bullshit narrative that doesn’t have to play out this way.

Fire couldn’t help you figure out what to cook. The steam engine couldn’t tell you how to make trains arrive on time. Unlike technologies of yore, we can actually apply the very technology we’re being asked to fear to fight those fears and help the humans. Be it UBIT, skilled-labor retraining and something else, what if we are building part of the help we need?

But who will foot the bill for that, Ron J?

The Teslas, Facebooks, Googles, Ubers and others — AKA the disruptors. All answering to a simple ethical mandate: If you disrupt it, you have to fund solutions for the fallout.

That, might be a new paradigm of ethical innovation that pushes ALL boats on the tide higher. We’re in this together. #teamhuman

What do you think? Reply in the comments. I really want to figure this one out. Recommend and share it to widen the convo if you’ve got smart smart folks who would sharpen this thinking up.