Sunday, February 19, 2017

Not All Questions Have An Answer

Have you noticed how many articles now have a number as the starting point of the article i.e.
  • 3 ways to improve your sales
  • 5 tactics to improve profits
  • 2 exercises to get a flat stomach etc etc
It seems almost that us humans want any issue boiled down into a few succinct bullet points and "hey presto" you have a solution to an issue.

However, I am coming to the uncomfortable realization that the rate of change in industry and the effects on the planet and its inhabitants are happening so fast that not only may we not be prepared for the changes but we do not know how to prepare.

Questions that are clearly being discussed but where the ability to forecast is simply guesswork at best, include:
  1. What will be the global impact of 1 Billion people moving out of poverty (source) be on the worlds resources i.e. food requirements, disposable goods consumed, pollution etc

  2. What will the impact of Artificial Intelligence and its role in Automation on societies. In a widely noted study published in 2013, Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne examined the probability of computerisation for 702 occupations and found that 47% of workers in America had jobs at high risk of potential automation (source) i,e.
    • Imagine a world where there are no taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, train drivers, pilots.
    • Image a world where surgery in hospitals were conducted by flawless robots whose combine knowledge of 1000's of similar surgeries have made their decision making more accurate than any human
    • Imagine a world where the ability to computer code is no longer a skill but a commodity and technological advancements are underpinned by low income / paid coders from any 3rd world country.
  3. What is the real economic impact of people living longer i.e. what will retirement look like in 20 to 30 years? Will you retire at 75 to enjoy your twilight years to 90?
The reality is that there has always been change. The Industrial Revolution and the Digital Revolution for example have had everlasting impacts on the world in which we live and as optimists point out we live longer than ever before,due to (but certainly not limited to) improvements in health care and jobs simply shifting i.e.remember how ATMs were supposed to cause huge job loses in banking but actually ended up creating jobs in technology.  So therefore change must be good! Right?

I'm not putting on my pessimists hat. I'm just putting on my "I am not sure" hat. The introduction of ATMs did indeed help create new jobs in technology but those ATMs never, to my knowledge, were considered artificial intelligence with the ability to learn and improve their function. What if they did? Would they be "intelligent" enough to self improve, self service and therefore reduce the reliance on human interaction for maintenance?

Perhaps now is not the time to look for the "3 steps to secure the future of mankind" or "5 ways to ensure global security" but actually a time for leaders to listen. Listening may not provide a short term solution that so many seem to demand but it may help to articulate the real issues. Once we understand the real issues we may begin to look at the real solutions. I can honestly say I am neither the optimist nor the pessimist but that I am in the "I am uncertain" group so if now is the time to listen, tell me, given the rate of change in industry and the effects on the planet and its inhabitants how do you suggest we prepare?

I look forward to hearing from you.