Real Solution Needed for the Real Change Coming through AI

The world stands yet again at another infliction point. Computing is changing… no, it’s being disrupted by AI. With the rapid onslaught of Big Data, machine learning and deep learning capabilities are forever changing our world. This change will continue exponentially and we need to be prepared to deal with some consequences as well.

Ten years ago… heck, just a few years ago. self-driving cars still seemed like a futuristic fantasy to most of us. Now, Uber made news by trucking a load of beer (50,000 cans of Budweiser) across Colorado with a self-driving truck. Think about the impact!  Self-driving vehicles will impact 4.4 million jobs (1.8 million heavy-truck and tractor-trailer long-haul drivers, 1.33 million delivery truck drivers, 233,700 taxi drivers and chauffeurs, Over 500,000” rideshare drivers, among others). And it’s not just the blue collar jobs that will be affected, but also the white collar jobs like trauma surgeons with the expected reduction in traffic accidents.

Actually, all surgical jobs are about to change as robotic surgery technologies are starting to improve exponentially. It is right on the horizon.

AI automation is the main reason that manufacturing jobs are starting to move back to the US. Given the tremendous productivity gains from AI robotics, it’s now more cost effective to manufacture here with better quality and without shipping and other logistic costs. How ironic is that?

While the politicians throw out slogans and one-liners about protecting jobs from outsourcing/offshoring, manufacturing jobs worldwide is on the decline due to automation. Even China has been steadily losing manufacturing jobs.

These disruptive changes also create many new types of jobs. During the Industrial Revolution, displaced farmers found jobs in factories. When the ATM came to market, banks extended specialized customer service jobs for the displaced bank tellers as their bottom line improved.

There is no doubt that the rise of AI will create a slew of very attractive new jobs. These will require specialized skills in technology, operation of robots and machines, different types of customer service, marketing, training, among others. However, there will be also substantial displacement of people during this disruptive period, who are not able to make the appropriate transition to these new types of jobs. Certain regions will be left behind while other tech-hub urban areas will flourish.

Companies will greatly benefit, making record profits. This trend has been happening for some time as Apple, Alphabet and Microsoft have greater valuation than traditional companies like Walmart with one-tenth of the workforce. Now with AI, there will be even greater value created. According to Bill Gates, a machine learning company will someday be worth 10 Microsofts.

I believe this new generation of companies, along with the government, will need to develop a safety net for the displaced workers during this transitional time. We need to start thinking NOW about a system that will help all parts of our society transition to this bold new world. Government and the business leaders should be working together on identifying those who will be displaced and best ways to create safety net programs with the tremendous amount of capital value that we all know will be created through the successful commercial application of AI.