06 October 2016

Artificial Intelligence – a look into tomorrow’s world

The debate whether AI will take people’s jobs represents one of the hottest topics for economists at the moment with some predicting that this will happen on a scale that has never been seen before. However, technology comes with positive and negative side effects.

Let’s take a closer look at the negative effects. Will robots take our jobs? The quick answer is Yes. Sooner or later they will, and it will be sooner than you might think.

Two scholars, Michael Osborne and Carl Frey, anticipate that nearly half of US Occupational categories are prone to automation within the next 20 years. This view was supported by Merrill Lynch from Bank of America who warned that 45% of all manufacturing tasks would be automated within a decade.

Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist warned that the jobs replaced by robots in the future will amount to 15m in the UK.

In Belgium, the OECD warns that 7% of all current jobs has a very high chance of being automatized. That’s about 320,000 jobs. A recent example has been in the banking and insurance industry where in the upcoming months companies like AXA, ING, or Record Bank will fire thousands of people. The support services begin to step out one by one, becoming inaccessible.

All these warnings picture a doom-like future with unemployment roaring. But let’s balance things a bit and take a look at the positive effects as well.

TVs, electric razors, coffee makers, or basically any other electronics got cheaper and better over time, partly because manufacturing keeps getting more and more efficient and partly because of globalisation. Fewer workers and fewer resources are required to make the same goods or services and of much better quality in a faster way. And, perhaps, without even being aware of it, over time these operational optimisations leave you with more money in your pockets.

Overall, on the one hand, the automation gives us access to cheaper, better, higher-quality services and goods and have the potential to create other jobs that could be more satisfying and meaningful than the old jobs. Some argue that this can lead to the world where innovation and creativity will be more valued than productivity. On the other hand, people will not always be able to adapt and get a new job immediately.

What should be the approach?

  1. On an individual level, if automation arrives in the work area, don’t fight against but find a way to work and adapt to A.I. Become a machine whisperer.
  2. On a social level, teaching children the skills they need to survive and thrive in an automated world. Instead of studying from workbooks which focus on productivity, learning should be directed to creativity and inventiveness.
  3. If it comes to massive lay-outs, companies and institutions should do this in long and slow phases and never fire people without, at least, one year notice along fair compensations and counselling for retraining. Unions should not fight modernization but should fight for fairness and rationality.

Interested to see if your job will still exist in the future? Check out this interesting guide from BBC which calculates what jobs are likely to be automated in the next 20 years. Mine will disappear, how about yours?

And above all, join us at the Unconvention in Brussels between 23 – 25 January 2017 where you will be able to discuss these new challenges with top experts. Reserve your early bird ticket here!

Sources: BBC, The Telegraph, Financial Times, Financial TimesDe Standaard, De Standaard, FW: Thinking.