Artificial Intelligence and the Need to Adapt
I remember my father-in-law saying to me, “You have cash and a check book, why do you need a credit card?” When small computers were introduced to businesses, our family drug store purchased an IBM. The accounting package crashed so many times I thought it was a big waste of time and money and wondered, ‘who needs computers?’ When the internet and smart phones were introduced I truly had no idea how it was going to transform how we got our information. The changes these technologies have spurred affect how we buy everything today along with shrinking the world due to increased connectivity.
Going back to when America was started, we were 98% driven by the agricultural industry. In the early 1900’s we became an industrial giant and now only 2% of our employment is in agriculture. When machines replaced people on the assembly line and people lost their jobs, people promised this was going to be the start of a new revolution with an uprising of those who had no jobs and/or future. We didn’t end up with less jobs or less opportunities because of machines.
Change is very difficult for everyone and many would like to go back to a simpler time but there is no way to put the “genie back into the bottle”. With our global economy totally dominating how we do business, we thought we would need to compete with third world countries paying $2 an hour. Then again why would we want to compete against $2 an hour when we can lower our labor cost down to almost nothing with the use of automation and AI.
A two year study from McKinsey Global Institute suggests that by 2030, intelligent agents and robots could replace a much as 30% of the world’s current human labor. McKinsey is predicting, depending upon various adoption scenarios, that automation will displace 400 to 800 million jobs by 2030, requiring as many as 375 million to switch job categories entirely.
This amount of disruption in a relatively short time frame will put tremendous political pressure on elected officials as massive groups of people could be unemployed, underemployed and most will be need to be retrained. The bottom line is the combination of artificial intelligence, robots and 5G will far exceed any other changes the world has gone through in the past as it relates to jobs.
There is of course a silver lining. There should be more jobs created from these changes than we will lose but they will be different and will most likely require greater skills and training.
There are those that feel that with the changes coming it will give us the freedom to pursue new jobs that provide a greater sense of meaning and well-being. Perhaps careers that challenge us, instill a sense of progress, provide us with more autonomy and a feeling of belonging in creating a greater good for all. In other words more job satisfaction, not like the drudgery of many of today’s jobs.
In addition, AI, automation and 5G will help to eliminate many diseases and world poverty. There is no doubt about this as we are experiencing higher levels of diagnosis and more effective treatments and cures. We also are able to identify how to grow food in places thought to be impossible in the past.
Bottom line - we know we are going to get hit with massive changes that are going to be incredibly disruptive to our livelihoods and our lifestyles. It is going to require a political will something similar to what Roosevelt introduced in the height of the depression. Only this time it’s going to be about providing a different educational system and training centers for jobs we don’t even know for sure what they are going to be.
In some ways I’m glad I’m 65 and plan on retiring in five years. On the other hand, I’m sure there will be plenty of new opportunities for entrepreneurial people to create new jobs and build wealth. We all need to keep in mind that what got our parents to where they are today, and what got you or even your company to where it is today, will likely change dramatically moving forward. How we adapt will depend on our mindset.