Friday, June 15, 2018

What do we do when tech take up most of our jobs?

What do we do when tech take up most of our jobs?

It seems that no worker are safe this week, blue or white collar included.

Amazon has decided that machines are better than humans in doing their pricing strategies. Microsoft is working on technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores. Tesla is firing 9% of its workforce while emphasizing that production worker will NOT be impacted. Technology enabled automation is for sure eating our jobs. Hack it’s even eating the disruptor’s job positions.

Yesterday I read an article arguing that AI is nowhere close to being here today to eat our jobs. I agree that AI is not yet matured enough but what’s rapidly erasing our jobs are not just AI. It’s plain old smart people using technologies to redesign processes. Take check out sensors taking away cashier’s job for example. Sensors and barcode scanner has been there for ages, it is not much of an AI. However, the whole DIY check out station design to let customer to guide customer to do the cashier’s task is simply better software and hardware design so a customer can perform the cashier’s task.

Take a look at Blockchain, it’s not AI. Blockchain is simply smart software design to utilize the Internet, Millions or Billions of computers in the world and plain old encryption algorithm. The source code of blockchain is even put on open source platform so all programmers can access them. The result, blockchain is simply empowering the next generation of transaction based software design to eliminate the middle tiers of people (white collar who massage data and push forms for approval) or even computers (which requires people to maintain). Once those middle tiers are gone, transactions across complex  network of computers and people process can be done in seconds instead of days, as in a cross bank payment transaction. There is not much AI involved but only smarter software design.

Of course there is AI, still. Microsoft Office, even in pre-AI stage, has already taken away great percentage of data entry and secretary jobs. The new AI enabled Microsoft Office now listen to our meeting and immediately record, translate and even create appointment and to-do tasks list. This is AI that does not take any real form. It’s not a new product like Tesla but embedded in our good old office software. The Android operating system will have Google Assistant embedded. The Google Assistant, AI boosted, will be able to understand up to 3 enquires embedded in one sentence. I can image that if a company optimise their customer service website so that it’s Google Assistant can easily look for customer service answer, many customer service agent will be losing their job.

If I extract all the fundamental elements that enable our machines to perform more and more of the human task, they will be these:

  • Proliferation of Internet of Things - networked computer with all sorts of sensors reading the world no human can ever read 24 hours a day.
  • Internet and Mobile network allows devices to communicate all day long. The future of the mobile network will not only carry bigger bandwidth but also smarter utilisation of bandwidth so we can do more stuff per byte. It will allow things like blockchain or IOT to do their job without taking up your YouTube watching.
  • Open Source will enable developers to come up with things that couldn’t have been done by one man or even one company. The incredible building block such as Blockchain, Deep Learning software, Access to AI service via open source software tapping into API and the list goes on. Open Source not only enable developers to create new things but also help spread the adaption of the software power like lightning.

If you look at these there items, they are nothing more than Computer Hardware, Network and Software. Or we can just call them as one item: smarter-networked-computers.

As these smarter computers proliferate to every hidden corners in our world, they will be able to perform many many small tasks that form a process in a job function. So, even before AI really develop, the simple fact that we have these network of sensor will enable “Plain Old Human Intelligent” to design better process and to disrupt traditional industry by automating the human job function.

For me this world has already arrive. It’s not up to debate. The more realistic thing to consider is how do we prepare ourselves in the new world. Fortunately, I believe human has been doing this since we first learn to pick up a piece of stone and use it as a weapon or tool. We have always been resourceful and adoptive. Technologies will improve and make our “survival” of living much easier. We human just have to find better things to do. Let’s think of it this way, when we don’t have to work to survive, we will probably work to make ourselves happier! It means services, entertainment or real human networking! Perhaps in the future, we all just try to be an entertainer, youtuber, artist, performer or simply a guy who’s ready to talk to another person for coaching or for fun! The rest of the labor will be done by computers!