A Possible Future: Automation Shifts The Economic Paradigm

In exploring possible futures, we give ourselves an opportunity to shape them. With all the existing and emerging science and technology building blocks converging with domains like society, the economy, and geopolitics, predicting the future is impossible. But we can look at possibilities and what they mean to our future. One great recent example was described in an article by Tristan Greene. In looking at artificial intelligence and related automation, Mr. Greene focused on how automation could turn capitalism into socialism. This is not a political discussion, rather, it is following a thread to a logical conclusion. In this case, the impact of automation on the future of work. Mr. Greene said:

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The Future Always Follows Two Paths

In a Post from 2016, I explored the balance required when the forces of innovation take hold. The pace of innovation four years ago was already staggering, and the engine that drives it continues unabated. From that post:

The unabated exponential progression of science and technology has driven a staggering pace of innovation. The building blocks are mostly there, allowing creative minds to combine them in ways that attack the world’s most difficult challenges. Additional forces have emerged to position the next two decades as a period that is purpose-focused and transformative. Innovation itself is no longer the sole purview of business, universities, government, and military, as our connected world provides an ideation and innovation engine never seen before.

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The Future Of Jobs

Data gathered by LinkedIn, Coursera and the World Economic Forum was captured in a Future of Jobs Report recently published by The World Economic forum (WEF). A good summary is provided by senior writer Kate Whiting in her recent Article on the WEF website. Report content is showing up in varied places, with key findings like those below widely shared:

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Robots Are Constructing a Dam in Japan. Are Buildings Next?

Here is a scenario I expect to see play out increasingly over time:

To address Japan’s rapidly aging workforce and labor shortage, contractor Obayashi Corporation has turned to automation by constructing a dam almost entirely with robots

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Is The Future Of Work A Return To The Past?

For those of us alive today, our core beliefs, the way we live, and our notion of work are rooted in the way it has been for the last 250 years. To us, it has always been this way. When a transformative era emerges, we struggle to imagine a different way of doing things – even when the emerging future is begging us to think differently. One great example lies in the future of work. As we struggle to envision a world where work is no longer required, we fail to realize that History is very Instructive.

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A Job Guarantee

As I continue to research the societal factors that influence our future, I’ve explored broad topics from Government Deficits to Modern Monetary Theory. A Job GuaranteeMost recently, I’ve looked into something that lies at the heart of many societal ills; unemployment and underemployment. That journey led me to my most recent book titled: A Job Guarantee. I just added a book – written by Pavlina R. Tcherneva – to my Book Library. Ms. Tcherneva is an American economist of Bulgarian descent, working as associate professor and director of the Economics program at Bard College.

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Robots And The Future Of Work

The phrase “The robots are coming” is often repeated these days. What does their arrival mean for the future of work? That question has short term implications, and the potential for profound long-term impacts. Ask around and you get vastly different perspectives on the question. We seem as polarized on the topic as we are about anything these days. A very good perspective was provided recently in an Article authored by Daphne Leprince-Ringuet. The article explores the possible changes to work as robots become a common feature in the work environment.

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The Emergence Of New Commerce Centers And More

I had the opportunity to join the Dan Proft Show this week for a wide ranging discussion that covered the pandemic impacts on urbanization, immigration, inequality, retired workers, and the emergence of new commerce centers. Listen to our short interview.

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Some Job Opportunities Likely To Expand

Much has been said about the shift to remote work. The permanence of the shift remains to be seen, let’s assume however that this forced experiment has been successful enough to warrant an increase in remote work percentages. What are the implications of this shift? This recent Article authored by Patrick Gray explores two possible implications.

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Does COVID-19 Accelerate The Loss of Jobs To Automation?

In a virtual roundtable hosted by C-Level on May 14th, we used several polls to gain insight on how people are thinking about the post-pandemic world. The topic of the roundtable was “Rehearsing Post-Pandemic Futures.” You can view a video of the virtual roundtable Here. I posted the results of  polls One and Two earlier. You can participate in those polls by visiting the posts. The third poll that we launched during the session probed the question of jobs.

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A World Without Work

I Just finished another great book. This one is titled A World Without Work authored by Economist Daniel Susskind. A World Without WorkThe author explores a phenomenon that we have discussed many times over the centuries: Technological Unemployment. Drawing on almost a decade of research in the field, Susskind argues that machines no longer need to think like us in order to outperform us, as was once widely believed. The book describes a world where more and more tasks that used to be far beyond the capability of computers – from diagnosing illnesses to drafting legal contracts, from writing news reports to composing music – are coming within their reach. Mr. Susskind tells a compelling story to support his conclusion: the threat of technological unemployment is now real.

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Jobs will be very different in 10 years

As many focus on the future of work, various different perspectives are presented. A common theme is emerging: Jobs will be there, but they will be very different within the next decade. This recent Article draws three conclusions:

  • In 10 years time, 50% of jobs will be changed by automation – but only 5% eliminated.
  • 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills.
  • Young, low-skilled and vulnerable people – all need help with up-skilling.

Several critical points are made by the World Economic Forum article:

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Future Hiring: Skills-Based or Credentials-Based?

An Article by IEEE Spectrum captured a dialog that occurred at a recent MIT conference. The topic: AI and the Future of Work. The conference discussion underscores the struggles between Techno-Optimism and Techno-Pessimism. Rethinking the FuturePessimistic when AI and automation are viewed as an industry-destroying path that takes jobs via self-driving technology,  smart law algorithms, and robots that continue to put factory and warehouse workers out of work. Optimistic when those same technologies are viewed as augmentation that improves the employee experience.

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The Hybrid Job Economy

The notion that a renaissance man is more important today than ever is presented in recent Research by Burning Glass Technologies. Perhaps the best renaissance man of all time was Leonardo da Vinci, who was highly esteemed for his broad knowledge of many fields. The research concludes that we must all become more da Vinci-like in our careers. Said another way: learning a single skill in isolation has a short shelf life. Learning complementary skills becomes critical in what the research describes as a hybrid job economy.

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Wages are flatlining around the world

The World Economic Forum focused on wages in a recent Article that described a new Report from Hays, the world’s largest specialist recruiter. They highlight another year of change ranging from the tensions rising over trade relations between the US and China; to the uncertainty around Britain leaving the European Union; to the increasing levels of scrutiny against ’Big Tech’ and the ensuing debate surrounding privacy and content.

The IMF forecast a slowdown in global real GDP growth due in large part to the fear of the unknown. The Global Skills Index developed by Hays tracks the trends facing the global labor market. Here are some of the key findings:

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MIT Report on the Future of Work

In a recent Article posted on the Singularity Hub, the author describes the first report of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future. This group of MIT academics was set up by MIT President Rafael Reif in early 2018 to investigate how emerging technologies will impact employment and devise strategies to steer developments in a positive direction. The primary finding from this report is that  it’s the quality of the jobs we should worry about – not the quantity.

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AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order – Summary

I just finished a fantastic book on artificial intelligence and the evolutionary path of China and the U.S.. Author Kai-Fu Lee inspires, as he focuses on the astounding capabilities of AI, and the one thing that only humans can provide; love. The journey includes the author’s own brush with mortality, and proposes a path forward: Book of The Week - AI Superpowersthe synthesis on which we must build our shared future is AI’s ability to think, coupled with a human’s ability to love. He believes this synergy harnesses the undeniable power of artificial intelligence to generate prosperity, while also embracing our essential humanity. His hope for our future lies both in this new synergy between artificial intelligence and the human heart, and an AI-fueled age of abundance that fosters love and compassion in our societies.

I recommend reading this book from cover to cover. In the meantime, here is a summary organized by several key themes.

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Automation Risk Levels

A popular question these days is: Will a robot take my job? That question is as popular as: what should my child study in school? At the heart of both questions is the fear that we as a society will automate anything that can be automated. This website may help bring some clarity – at least in the context of automation risk level. It’s very quick, simply enter your job and an automation risk level expressed as a percentage will be returned.

The Automation Spectrum

Ultimately, these questions are difficult to answer, as we cannot predict the jobs of the future – and required skill levels could be a moving target. The progression of automation can be viewed on a spectrum from augmenting humans to fully conscious machines. There are arguments being made on both ends of this spectrum – time will tell.