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In last week’s e-brief, I suggested artificial intelligence (AI) will change everything. One of the things is employment. Some embrace doom and gloom scenarios where millions of jobs are lost to robots and algorithms, creating a major burden for society. A cabinet member said last week the impact is 50-100 years down the road. I hope his comment is just a reflection of him not yet being informed. 

There is no doubt millions of jobs will be absorbed by impending technology. It is already beginning in the financial services industry where there is a major push to improve efficiency and replace the decades old infrastructure that handles mundane transaction processing. It can and will be done smarter and faster. Customer service agents in all industries will be supplemented and mostly replaced with AI based capabilities, which gain intelligence from absorbing millions of calls, problems, resolutions, and suggestions from humans. Tiny self-driving robots have started delivering food on-demand in Silicon Valley.

There is also a dark side to AI. Bill Gates has been quoted as saying that AI is potentially more dangerous than a nuclear catastrophe. Other pundits believe, in the next few decades, we are either going to head toward self-destruction, or  humans becoming descendants which will eventually colonize the universe. Maureen Doud interviewed many of the pundits and wrote a comprehensive article about the dark side of AI in Vanity Fair. Click here to read it.

While I do not reject the dark side out of hand, I believe there are a lot of positive things to come from AI. Nurses and physician assistants will be able to make more accurate diagnoses than doctors can make today. Customer service will be extraordinary. Needless delays in financial transactions involving money transfers will be eliminated. Productivity of enterprise knowledge workers will be greatly enhanced. Getting millions of hits when searching will be replaced by discovery of the information we want, even when we don’t know what key words to search for.

Millions of new jobs will be created for data scientists, systems architects, machine learning experts, robot designers who can teach robots how to design robots, manufacturing systems engineers who can design the factories of the future, bioinformatics experts, and many others with advanced skills. The key question we need to focus on is how we can transform our education system to create these new skills. The demand will be there. The supply may not be.