The Work In Progress December 2019: Technology & Us

Technology and Us

I am as fascinated by the enormous technological changes we are seeing in all facets of our lives as the next person. When I think of my parent’s childhoods, or even my own, what we have achieved as a species would have sounded like science fiction back then.

And yet we have achieved it. And the changes keep coming – driverless cars, low-cost housing created by 3D printers, AI-assisted translation services. These are exciting developments that will positively impact the quality of human enterprise.

It’s important to interrogate our own emotional response to these changes. Fears of unemployment loom large, particularly when harnessed as a political tool. Concerns over privacy and loss of community are frequently referenced in the media.

In contrast to fear-mongering, I believe technology and AI won’t manipulate human lives, rather it will service them.¬†Nevertheless, the pace of change will inevitably surprise us, as we take up these new advances exponentially. Job functions will evolve every 3-5 years and in order to survive, businesses will constantly need to respond dynamically to the AI-influenced marketplace. Rather than perceiving this as a threat, we can prepare for this by adopting a mindset of lifelong learning. Rather than an isolated block of study in our youths, our best defence against obsolescence in the workplace is to continually educate ourselves.

While 47% of jobs were famously predicted by Oxford scholars to be replaced by technological developments in the next fifty years, the reality is that, just as the industrial revolution changed how we worked, so will the AI revolution. It won’t necessarily wipe out jobs themselves, rather it will automate certain functions within jobs. Human labour is incredibly difficult to replicate. Our understanding of nuance is why Artificial Intelligence needs to operate within the scope of human management. Instead of an AI takeover, I believe it will be a matter of synthesising our skills to operate strongly with technology as our valuable ally.