October 18, 2016
AI, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the Future of Jobs
Like a scene out of the latest sci-fi movie, the robot armies are coming. And while it is generally accepted that they will be friendly to humans, they bring with them an undercurrent of danger. They will arrive initially to serve mankind, to perform tasks considered too mundane or harmful to human health. But as they get smarter, their ambitions may grow, until the next thing you know, they’ve stolen your job!
Sound far-fetched? Far from it. The very near future is likely to bring with it a landscape populated with ever increasingly sophisticated computers and robots. As technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning mature, the capabilities of these devices to perform more “human-like” tasks will increase exponentially. The economic impacts of this coming revolution could be dire if the technology is not managed properly. Many experts are predicting that future generation AI-driven robots will essentially be able to perform any task that humans can do today, from driving a bus to operating on a patient. The question then becomes, what will humans do in a world without work?
The threat to the economy is very real. According to the World Economic Forum, jobs lost to AI-driven automation could number 5 million by 2020. And another report, co-authored by Citibank and the University of Oxford Martin School, predicts that in the US alone, a whopping 47% of jobs could be at risk. Even if these worst-case scenarios don’t come to fruition, the disturbances to the global economy as a result of AI-enabled automation will certainly be profound.
Governments and businesses alike need to consider the ramifications of the coming ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’. Advanced automation will result in a sea change in the way organizations both large and small conduct business. And society as a whole will need to decide how to best harness this technology for the greater good of humanity, rather than allowing it to spawn economic hardship and inequality.