This past December, the Pew Research Centre released a report that set out to get the opinions of 979 technology pioneers, innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists. Specifically, they asked these individuals their thoughts on Artificial Intelligence and where it would take us by 2030. It turns out, 63% of the experts agreed that although there will be some challenges, we will be better off.
Not surprisingly, the article was widely read and commented on. This Inc article went so far as to review all comments and provide their 27 favourite quotes from the experts, including some thoughts on the future of work. While it seems there are many benefits and potential for happiness to come from AI, certainly there are also concerns for the future of many workers. This insight from Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute and professor of strategic foresight at New York University, is perhaps the most detailed and sums it up well:
“We will need new hybrid-skilled knowledge workers who can operate in jobs that have never needed to exist before. We’ll need farmers who know how to work with big data sets. Oncologists trained as robotocists. Biologists trained as electrical engineers. We won’t need to prepare our workforce just once, with a few changes to the curriculum. As A.I. matures, we will need a responsive workforce, capable of adapting to new processes, systems, and tools every few years. The need for these fields will arise faster than our labor departments, schools, and universities are acknowledging. … We need to address a difficult truth that few are willing to utter aloud: A.I. will eventually cause a large number of people to be permanently out of work.”:
McKinsey also weighed in on the topic last December in this statistic-driven article explaining the future of jobs due to automation. While some believe AI and automation will destroy jobs, McKinsey predicts there is plenty of opportunity, as long as the proper investments happen. They also remind us that, at least in the near future, not everything can be automated. Jobs would have to be done in predictable and structured environments and based on routine. Not only that, but the cost-benefit analysis has to make sense. Companies are not going to automate just because they can. Finally, McKinsey claims that while 30% of time spent in most occupations could be automated, only 5% of occupations can be completely automated.
By 2030, McKinsey predicts that India could create up to 1.2 million incremental jobs for tech professionals due to automation. They also expect higher global spending on technology products and services by consumers and businesses — $1.7 trillion to $2 trillion. That means a demand for 20 million to 46 million incremental tech workers globally-from software engineers and electrical engineers to web developers and non-technology support staff, with the largest share being in China and India.
While it all sounds great, the article cautions that these benefits can’t be realized unless we take the proper actions. “Policymakers will have to work with the private sector to stimulate investment, through strategies tailored for various sectors of the economy,” they warn. In addition, the workforce will need to be equipped with more digital literacy. Afterall, workers will need to know how to effectively operate automation and applications.
So, is it all doom and gloom or are IT contractors and technology professionals in for a bright future? According to this video we shared last October, economists are not concerned, saying that if history predicts anything, there will only be more opportunities. The comments on the YouTube page, though, would argue otherwise. It seems the only way we’ll know for sure is to wait 10 years and see what happens. What do you think?