While there has been plenty of talk about how artificial intelligence (AI) will transform the workplace, so far the effects have been subtle and slow to reveal themselves, although the scale of the oncoming change is starting to become apparent. Machine learning, task automation and robotics are already widely used in business. These and other AI technologies are about to multiply, and we look at how organizations can best take advantage of them. The ability of computers to learn, rather than be programmed, how to carry out specific tasks puts a wide range of complex roles within reach of automation for the first time. While this fresh wave of automation is not yet widespread, today there are glimpses of how profoundly these new capabilities will change the nature of work: Amazon Go's cashierless supermarket where shoppers just grab what they want and leave, the thousands of Amazon Kiva robots that ferry goods to and fro in the retail giant's warehouses, and the pairing of AI and IoT sensors to carry out predictive maintenance on ThyssenKrupp elevators across the world.
We've all heard the predictions that artificial intelligence, and by extension robotics, is gunning for our jobs. Indeed, as technology marches relentlessly forward, it feels like many of today's positions could soon be displaced. But just as with past technological inflection points -- whether the steam engine, the telegraph, the computer or even industrial robots -- technology will always give as much as it takes, as it always has. That matters little to people who have lost their jobs though. You could argue that the current political climate is due, at least in part, to economic changes driven by technology being created in Silicon Valley.
As U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin predicts artificial intelligence (AI) won't be a threat to American jobs over the next several decades, and still others opine on why he is wrong, both sides are missing an important point: No matter the pace of change as AI makes in-roads into the workplace, humans need more training and skills development in order to be equipped for tomorrow's jobs. Rather than trying to spin the future-of-AI story to match the Trump administration's agenda of bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., a better use of time and energy in Washington and elsewhere is to fill the skills gap for American workers. Education has always been key to improving people's adaptability and employability. Consider today's demands for well-trained workers, including in factories where a rebound in output has been experienced. But for those who lack even basic technology skills, more training is necessary to give them a chance to compete in the changing workplace.
At a GE Renewable Energy factory in Pensacola, FL, a technician is assembling the wiring of an electrical cabinet that goes into the hub of a wind turbine--a complex process that involves matching hundreds of wires into their corresponding sockets. The task is traditionally performed with heavy reliance on an instruction manual that contains the insertion location of each wire. But for the past 40 minutes, the technician has been meticulously going about his business with an almost unsettling precision, without pausing to glance at the thick manual sitting closed in a corner of the workshop. The technician hasn't memorized the insane amount of instructions contained in the manual. Instead, he relies on Google Glass, a device worn like a pair of glasses that uses augmented reality (AR) technology to project step-by-step instructions for the task in his field of vision.
Machines are eating humans' jobs talents. And it's not just about jobs that are repetitive and low-skill. Automation, robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in recent times have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers in oil fields, sports journalists and financial reporters, crew members on guided-missile destroyers, hiring managers, psychological testers, retail salespeople, and border patrol agents. Moreover, there is growing anxiety that technology developments on the near horizon will crush the jobs of the millions who drive cars and trucks, analyze medical tests and data, perform middle management chores, dispense medicine, trade stocks and evaluate markets, fight on battlefields, perform government functions, and even replace those who program software – that is, the creators of algorithms. People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, ...