The Largest Business Disruption in History

The (first and second) industrial revolution surely impacted the work of the future. And while futurists of the time had prognosticated it would be the “end of work” they could not imagine the new jobs which would be created by reducing the cost of goods and increasing their supply. With the dawn of computers we also saw grand prognostications on the end of work as the information age would eliminate so many jobs. And 20 years later, the dawn of the internet launched also grand prognostications of the end of work as we know it.

For certain, millions of jobs were eliminated. But more machines, computation and communications actually created more jobs, not less. These jobs required higher level skills than the jobs they replaced, but still well within the capabilities of humans.

However, for the first time in history we are approaching a time when many of the jobs that will be handled by new robots and AI and other automation technologies will take on tasks that are fairly higher level skills. Driving, handling insurance claims, even medical diagnoses and eventually surgery.

While the human brain in total will not be replaced with AI in the next few decades, virtually none of us use our entire brain for our job tasks. More like 10% or 20% Think about it. Most jobs simply have never required 100% of ones mind. So envisioning that AI and robots to replace 10% of ones brain, especially in more repetitive tasks, seems plausible. Moreover, on the bell curve of IQ, those on the left side of that curve (yes, fully 50% of humans have a lower IQ than the other half…this is simple math and somewhat tied to genetics with education also playing a major role).

So we must consider that the major disrupting influence to business and society is the falling cost and rising capabilities of automation. Robotic automation, software automation, AI. All of these are already impacting every field. And all business must embrace this in their own field, or be usurped by their competitors. While every company is a software company, every company is really an automation company. Whether its hamburgers or insurance agents, anything and everything done by humans will be better done by software or machines in the next few decades, far cheaper and more productive and with higher quality. We are already seeing real-world examples in hotels, in fast food, in insurance and retail and of course manufacturing. Robots delivering towels and now coffee to rooms 24/7. Order takers being replaced en-mass in low, then mid, and even now some high-end restaurants, manufacturing robots now broadly cheaper than Chinese wages, light AI driven business process automation eliminating insurance jobs (claims adjusters) and that’s only the start. Many of these cost reductions along with AI-driven capabilities will cause onshoring of manufacturing as the costs start to equal offshore facilities after 50 years of offshoring. But the speed at which the technology is evolving is incredible, and the impact on not just low-level jobs but mid-level and soon high-level is frightening and exciting all at once. What seems undoable today might be doable at 1/10th the cost of a human in a year. We have never witnessed this level of “replacement ability” in the history of civilization. Even doctors and lawyers and coders are at risk of replacement in the near future. How will we feed ourselves if all the jobs are gone? How does my company prepare to do business in this new world? Who should we turn to to help us lead our industry? What about our employees who will be automated out of good paying jobs? Who will be around to buy our product or services if everyone is out of work? What about basic income? This is the time to be discussing these changes because the future is now. Everyone needs to learn, prepare, and act today.

Copyright 2017  Kevin Surace  All Rights Reserved.


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