Andy Haldane, the Bank of England’s chief economist, said automation posed a risk to almost half those employed in the UK and that a “third machine age” would hollow out the labour market, widening the gap between rich and poor.
Physicist Stephen Hawking and the tech billionaires Bill Gates and Elon Musk issued a similar warning last year. Hawking warned that AI “could spell the end of the human race” and Musk said it represents “our biggest existential threat”.
Sources: The Guardian
AI may well be the future – but what sort of future will that be? Some of the latest headlines cast a sombre shadow on the prospects for humanity. Even McKinsey, a calm voice of reasoned opinion, is predicting that 140 million jobs could be lost by the year 2020. That’s less than four years away!
But curiously, I don’t share this pessimism. Indeed, I believe that AI will radically improve the quality and performance of our work. And the justification for this optimism comes from the amazing, life-enhancing work now being delivered by small innovation firms. Let me explain…
Any follower of tech-development cannot fail to be impressed by the latest generation of exoskeleton pioneers. They have literally turned ‘Ironman’ into a superhuman reality. By creating a supportive techno-carapace, they have empowered people to lift weights and sustain performances that were previously unthinkable.
And if you take that same inventive thinking and wrap it around everyday processes that are struggling to deliver, you can achieve results that are equally startling.
Imagine this scenario…
Your smart phone suddenly develops a fault, so you call the network’s helpline. After working your way through a tedious set of automated options, you eventually connect with a human – and that’s when your problems really start.
Tasked with handling everything from handset queries, billing complaints and upgrade enquiries to technical faults, signal failures and contract cancellations, the well-meaning ‘customer advisor’ is overloaded and ill-equipped. In a regime that measures performance on the brevity of the call and not on the quality of the resolution, the poor advisor is also under impossible pressure. So he offloads you. Like a parcel at a children’s party, you are passed to other ‘advisors’ who diligently strip the outer layers of the problem without ever reaching the core solution.
And believe me, this is not an exaggeration. Recently, I was with the senior executive of a very large mobile phone company who admitted that 37% of customers who call their help centre, call back again within 7 days! That is a failed system – a formula dedicated to customer (and employee) dissatisfaction.