R2-D2, a friend or foe?

So is R2-D2 a friend or foe? You opinion may change in 15 years or perhaps after finishing this blog.

I read an interesting article this week in Recode. The author, April Glaser wrote about a new study from PwC that estimates 38 percent of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation within the next 15 years. While other countries like the Japan, Germany and the U.K. would be impacted, the U.S. economy would see the greatest change.

What is the rationale? Evidently, the U.S. has a greater percentage of jobs with routine tasks that could be done by though some form of Artificial Intelligence (AI), e.g. filling out paperwork. The study also found that some industries are more vulnerable than others, such as transportation, manufacturing and retail.

The PwC team used a simple approach to arrive at this conclusion. They decomposed the tasks required for different jobs across a number of industries. Once established, the team was able to determine how much of those tasks could eventually be automated, given the recent acceleration in AI. If proven to be true, it could represent a significant economic shift that requires both proactive and reactive measures.

Proactive - Redefine US Education

As a father of four children, I am always thinking about their future. What careers will be the right fit for their personality and passion? Will they make the right investments in education to position themselves in a field that remains desirable and in high demand? While those questions are important, I think the more fundamental question is whether or not our education system is in a position to respond to this potential risk with AI. My short answer...no. For one, we need to redesign the K-12 curriculum to incorporate more critical thinking, team collaboration, etc. We should also think about offering more collegiate scholarships for emerging fields of study that learn to harness technology and create whole new industries as a result. The ultimate goal would be to embrace this potential change, adapt appropriately and thrive together with AI in a complementary manner.

Reactive - Create Workforce Re-training Programs

It’s obvious the government will need to get involved to some degree in order to help retool the current workforce. Of course, the scope and scale will entirely depend on the makeup of the legislative and executive branches. If history is any prediction to the future, I suspect any new policy intervention will evolve very slowly. Let’s hope we can find some emerging leaders in D.C. that begin to introduce legislation that can take some incremental gains while appreciating the long term implications. Unfortunately, the current Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, doesn’t see the need to even consider this possibility. In fact, he recently said these changes are more likely to happen in “50 to 100 more years”.

Regardless of the impact, 38% versus say 15%, we need to continuously adapt alongside the rapid pace of technology. This will be incredibly important to our evolution both culturally and economically.

What is your take? Tell us what you think!