What will you do when smart machines take over you job?
“Over the coming decade, smart machines will be the most disruptive class of technologies.” – pre-eminent research company, Gartner, Inc
“I think decentralized networks will be the next huge wave in technology. The blockchain allows our smart devices to speak to each other better and faster.” – Melanie Swan, ‘Blockchain: Blueprint for a New Economy,’ 2015.
Which of these digital innovations would you be happy to do without? The Internet? Google Search? Wikipedia? LinkedIn/Facebook? Your smart phone? Your laptop or tablet? GPS? Netflix? Amazon? Uber? AirBnB?
If you’re like me – none, of them, except, maybe, Facebook, which I rarely use.
Yet, look how these remarkable innovations have disrupted and transformed our lives and jobs, the ways we learn and communicate, what we do for entertainment, even the size and scope of the world we inhabit.
AND, yes,…they’ve also torn some industries asunder, destroyed many old jobs and created lots more new ones. Yet we’ve absorbed all this with a lot of pain to some – taxi drivers, for instance – but enhanced joy and utility to most of us.
Your job’s about to go
So…what would you do if you knew for sure that all-pervasive smart machines will disrupt, take over, and further transform, your job, and your world, in the next eight years? Well, from the research data: That’s the most likely scenario! Except for hi-tech, hi-touch, hi-smart roles!
In addition, at the moment all the evidence points to the benefits of these massive changes being concentrated among a small elite, and around hi-smart jobs, further exacerbating the global trend towards increased levels of inequality. That’s a big, big, big issue!
So… will you sit on the sidelines, wait for it to happen, then retire, bruised and hurt, to a rapidly diminishing pension? Or jump headfirst into this Fourth Industrial Revolution, right now – do some accelerated learning using smart systems like ALEKS, become a prime mover, and collaboratively create a totally different future for you, your kids, and the next generations?
What are smart machines?
Smart machines are devices that teach themselves how to do things. While humans must evaluate and tweak the output of ‘dumb machines’, smart machines tweak themselves. Smart machines can do ‘all’ the routine tasks, and even many of the non-routine tasks that right now only we as humans can do.
The term ‘smart machines’ covers artificial intelligence [AI], intelligent automation, cognitive computing, machine learning, and deep learning – all terms that themselves require more exploration. [So, please, explore!]
Smart machines can sell you real estate or insurance. Clean your house. Do most of your accounting. Customize your legal documents. Respond in customized ways to your queries as a customer. Make your home secure. Listen to, adjust to, and transcribe your voice. Learn from you. Become a partner with you in how you learn!
And more rapidly, than most of us realise, smart systems are becoming more predominant, pervasive and persuasive:
“Minute by minute, machines are doing more and more of the work we perform today…work will be reimagined, reconfigured, and restructured in the years to come,” claim the three authors of a must-read book: ‘What to do when machines do everything’.
Examples of smart systems include:
- driverless cars
- refrigerators that re-order goods as we use them
- machines that monitor and adjust to individual learning styles and progress
- robots [or ‘bots’] that perform intricate surgery
- systems that dramatically increase the returns made from investing in shares
- chatbots – like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa – which respond to our speech and adjust their own algorithms in response to our behaviour
- manufacturing processes based on 4D, yes 4D, printing – Great Abracadabra! I haven’t even got used to 3D printing yet, even though its 30 years old
- design and install of biocompatible human implants
- not just the Internet of Things – but the Internet of Everything
- holistic systems that diagnose our illnesses, and predict possible ones inherent in our genes, our diet and our environment
- machines that analyse x-rays and CT scans
- machines that can lay a 1,000 standard bricks in an hour
- systems that road test 100,000 potential drugs in a day.
Gartner, Inc, is one of the most authoritative research sources in this fast-growing field. They claim that by 2021 – four short years away – 30% of the world’s larger companies will have embraced smart machines. With mainstream adoption occurring between 2020 and 2025. That’s a period of just 8 years from now.
Gartner calculates that spending on smart machine consulting and systems integration services alone – on top of a capital spend on robots of $83 billion – will accelerate from a small $451 million in 2016, to nearly $29 billion in 2021.
Another researcher, Accenture, predicts by 2035, AI could double annual economic growth rates and boost productivity by nearly 40%.
But what about jobs?
Ah here it’s well worth you doing your own intensive and extensive research – as various studies are big-time pessimistic about low skilled, repetitive, routine roles, and high-time optimistic for big talent, high added value roles.
The move is from hands and body jobs, to brain and superbrain jobs, where we hold hands with real smart machines! With hi-touch jobs. like massage, becoming even more important.
But by far the biggest impact is forecast to be in service-industry jobs amd knowledge-industry jobs. Where, of course, the bulk of jobs sit in advanced economies. The hit list includes: taxi and delivery drivers, receptionists, HR and marketing administrators, counter and rental clerks, sales clerks, burger-flippers, retail assistants, security guards, accountants, middle level executives, finance workers, telemarketers – oh NO! machines with an Indian accent!
World Economic Forum: “ While some jobs are threatened by redundancy and others grow rapidly, existing jobs are also going through a change in the skill sets required to do them. The debate on these transformations is often polarized between those who foresee limitless new opportunities and those that foresee massive dislocation of jobs. In fact, the reality is highly specific to the industry, region and occupation in question as well as the ability of various stakeholders to manage change.”
Forbes: “As automation increases, computers and machines will replace workers across a vast spectrum of industries, from drivers to accountants and estate agents to insurance agents.”
CEDA: “[There is a] high probability that 40 per cent of Australia’s workforce, more than five million people, could be replaced by automation within the next 10 to 20 years.”
Swiss Bank, UBS: “There will be a “polarisation of the labour force as low-skill jobs continue to be automated and this trend increasingly spreads to middle class jobs.”
McKInsey: “The world of work is in a state of flux, which is causing considerable anxiety – and with good reason. There is growing polarization of labour-market opportunities between high- and low-skill jobs, unemployment and underemployment especially among young people, stagnating incomes for a large proportion of households, and income inequality… Many activities that workers carry out today have the potential to be automated.”
Gartner: “The use of smart machines by enterprises can be transformative and disruptive. Smart machines will profoundly change the way work is done and how value is created. From dynamic pricing models and fraud detection, to predictive policing and robotics, smart machines have broad applicability in all industries,” says Susan Tan, research vice president at Gartner.
And it’s not just smart machines forcing change
World Economic Forum, 2016: “Today, we are at the beginning of a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Developments in genetics, artificial intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, to name just a few, are all building on and amplifying one another.
“This will lay the foundation for a revolution more comprehensive and all-encompassing than anything we have ever seen. Smart systems—homes, factories, farms, grids or cities—will help tackle problems ranging from supply chain management to climate change.
“The rise of the sharing economy will allow people to monetize everything from their empty house to their car.
“While the impending change holds great promise, the patterns of consumption, production and employment created by it also pose major challenges requiring proactive adaptation by corporations, governments and individuals.
“Concurrent to the technological revolution are a set of broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic drivers of change, each interacting in multiple directions and intensifying one another.
“As entire industries adjust, most occupations are undergoing a fundamental transformation.”
Watch out Big Boys and Girls!
Gartner also predicts danger for the big boys and girls! And opportunities for the nimble start-ups:
They predict within two years, by 2019:
- startups will dominate Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft in the market for artificial intelligence software. How? By offering industry-tailored chatbots that excel at niche tasks.
- more than 10% of IT customer service hires will spend most of their time writing scripts for robots
- almost a third of leading companies will see AI eat into their revenues.
Seven arhetypal responses
If we think we are immune from the onslaught, forget it! So, how are we responding? And how might we?
Well, whenever the human race is hit with major, disruptive changes, various ones of us respond in at least seven different ‘archetypal’ ways:
- We fight.
- We flee, run away.
- We bunker down and hope it will pass, and all will come ‘right’ again.
- We slow right down and go into a form of shell shock.
- We run faster, strive harder, and frenetically increase our activity, hoping we can catch the train that’s rapidly speeding away from us.
- We see and foresee the changes, accept them and adapt in a multitude of ways.
- We get actively involved, learn, evolve and play an innovative role in transforming from the old to the new.
If you want to see first hand all of these seven basic human responses at work, have a good hard look at most Western Parliaments, especially Australia’s own – designed for a different time, a different world, and a very different, more homogeneous social structure:
“Faced with the challenge of disruptive new technology, the current political framework is no longer fit for purpose and its shortcomings are likely to lead to a backlash that could turn very nasty,” writes Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of ‘The Guardian’.
“Many democracies now face a fight between past and future, between inherited entitlements and future investment,” claims a thoughtful and thought-provoking essay in ‘The Economist’ – “What’s gone wrong with democracy?”
But also take a few moments to reflect on any one of our primary social, political, cultural and economic institution. In each you see all the seven behaviours being acted out. And you see with almost no exceptions, they all urgently need reformation – to make them far better. Or as the World Economic Forum article says: the massive changes require “proactive adaptation by corporations, governments and individuals.” That means us! Our jobs. And all our work places…
- Penal systems
- Trade unions
- Nation states
- Non-government organisations
- Global ecology
The good to great news
In this amazing, turbulent, stretching, challenging, exciting environment of ‘creative destruction’ we’re now in, and face, the good news is two fold:
- Innovators will never be out of a job
- Every single one of us has the capacity to innovate
Turning back the waves
The C11th King of Denmark, England and Norway, King Canute, is often reported as foolishly believing he had the power to turn back the in-rushing tides. In fact, Canute stood on the shore as the waves lashed his feet and robes, to prove to his fawning courtiers there were forces at work, far stronger than a sovereign.
Equally, there is no way we can stop the growing tide of new technologies, new science, new knowledge, new platforms, new interactions, new connections, new syntheses enveloping our cosmos.
But just as machines are getting smarter, so are we, or so can we.
Ever seen any of the endless reruns of ‘Get Smart’, the US comedy series created by Mel Brooks? It satirizes the life of secrets agents through the constant misadventures of the far-from-smart Maxwell Smart, backed by his ever-faithful Agent 99 and the super-humanly patient, but constantly exasperated, Chief. Great fun!
If smart machines can take away your job, my job, our neighbour’s job, then the smart response is: “Create a new job: Become an innovator!”
To misquote Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: “Innovators of the world unite!”
It’s time we joined with our Millennial generation and others, who are changing our institutions, changing our jobs, and changing our world, with distributed networks like blockchain, with smart cities, with smart homes, with smart machines, with smart systems, with smart technologies, and with smart thinking.
So today’s takeaway is super clear: Get smart, go smart!