AI and Loss

You may wonder about the sudden turn. I thought about doing a topic on language, one of my favorite topics, but a recent article on “Stratechery” and my long interest in technology inspired me to write about how “narrow” AI and will affect the workplace. Some of us will need to take action soon or there are going to be a whole lot of people problems. What this has to do with presentation is something I will address at the end.

Broad and Narrow AI

When people first think of AI, most think of what I would call “broad” AI. The kind of AI where a computer thinks and acts like a human and can do things like a human or better. Think something like the computer from Star Trek. Some people may even think of some malevolent force, like Skynet from The Terminator or the machines in the Matrix. While Elon Musk (founder of Tesla Motors and Space X) maybe worried about them, I believe the world is still a long way off from this.
 
On the other hand, “Narrow” AI, is only good at one thing. It is the kind of AI like Alpha Go who defeated a grandmaster, Lee Sedol. It is the kind of AI, that will be found in cars developed by Google, Tesla, Uber, and others. It is the kind of AI that Fukoku Life Insurance used to replace 34 people this March. It is the kind that reduces the need of underwriters, legal assistants, accountants, and any kind of white collar work that has a significant amount of routine work. Estimates from Nomura Research Institute figure that 49% of all jobs could be replaced by either AI or robots. So, this means either you or some you know will lose their job to automation.

The 49%

Of the 49% there is quite a bit that are low wage jobs. Even with issues like increase in theft, we already see the decline of cashiers with the expansion of self-checkout lines and Amazon Go. We can see that self-driving cars will greatly impacts taxis drivers, truckers, and the entire automobile industry. Renting self-driving car for the time you need it, will hurt Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, their vendors, and the community that depend on them.  And of course there is the continuing decline of manufacturing jobs. While many politicians like Donald Trump complain of losing those job to overseas countries, those countries too are replacing workers with automation. Foxconn replaced 60,000 workers that way.
 
It could be said that this good creative destruction. After all old lower wage jobs are going to be replaced by newer high wage jobs. This is small comfort for the person who lost his or her job, or the family that is affected. There can be a lot of pain and against these people cannot get the new jobs quickly. Plus, with changing advances in technology it is not just low-wage jobs, but higher more educated job that will be effected. 

Risky High Paying Jobs

Jobs currently listed as in danger are: bankers, fund managers, financial analysists, insurance underwriters, claims representatives, legal assistants, medical imagining technicians, and even some movie roles (most recent example Grand Moff Tarkin recreation in Rouge One). 
 
As I said earlier Fukoku Life Insurance is using IBM`s Watson to eliminate 34 jobs. The calculations are that Fukoku will get return in its investment in 1.5 years and save 125 million yen per year thereafter. Further, A completely AI controlled fund by Simplex controls 560 billion yen a year and is expected to double by end of this year. Other more mainstream companies like Bridgewater Associates are looking at this area too. Why pay millions to a fund manager when you can get AI to do it for free?
 
Any work that requires data crunching or analysis no matter how complicated will be replaced. Replacing a fund manager, a medical imaging technician, or an insurance underwriter, doesn`t need any new machinery, just good software. With new applications from IBM`s Watson and those like being developed every day, it is only a matter of time before those middle-class jobs simply disappear just telephone operators, and human computers (see “Hidden Figures” for a great story about that) did. The problem is that those jobs may disappear faster than the time it takes to train people for a new career.
 
I think it is going to become more important for people to master the skills of learning quickly, learning deeply, and learning to be creative. We need to have good soft human communication skills. One of them is presentation. A good presentation is not just a providing information. Google can do that. A good presentation are not the just the slides. There is software that can create it. A human being can create new ideas. a human presenter can change hearts. A human presenter can spur action. Our heart, our head, our hands are our greatest assets. You need to use them to the fullest, or you too could be endanger of being replaced by “narrow” AI.

Standing at the Crossroads

So, I want you to take a long hard look at your own job.  What part of your job is simply routine? How will you company be effected by the rising tide of “narrow” artificial intelligence? Is your industry going to be on the losing end like most automobile manufactures? What do you think will happen?
 
Now consider what future you want.  What is the job, the company, the industry that you want to work in? What are skills that are needed? How will you acquire them? How will you be the successful person you want to be?
 
Not many people think about the future to the extent that you just did those few minutes ago. You are already ahead of most people. Because I want to hear from you, please let me know what you think.  Because I constantly want to improve this blog, please let me know if you want concerns about career, getting new skills and of course presentations! If you want to get more articles like this in your mailbox please subscribe!