Last week, I happened to read three different views from three different experts on the much talked about topic of our times – Automation and the impact on jobs.
Very unique perspectives on a phenomenon that is already causing flutters and panic among the industry and rather unfortunately, not so much among the potential victims – the humans who would soon be struggling to keep their jobs for survival.
So, what are they saying?
Elon Musk prescribes an Universal Basic Income from the government to compensate for the job loss from automation and Bots. Read this as a different version of social security or food stamps, not when you are old or sick, but mostly at your prime working age!
These are not things that I wish will happen. These are simply things that I think probably will happen.
Serious concerns from someone who already employs massive robots at his gigafactories and you can get a feel for the future factory floor here. Not surprisingly, you hardly see any humans!
The other interesting perspective on Automation comes from none other than Bill Gates who is suggesting the government to tax the companies that use Robots, sort of a Robot Tax.
Surprising that such a Luddite like proposition comes from a tech visionary. But, I feel this idea has got less to do with suppressing innovation and more to deal with the macro-economic impact of automation on jobs and the economy and the very highly likely event of huge middle income job loss in the near future.
More Bots – Less Jobs – – Lesser Tax – Lesser money with the government – hence, possibly lesser spending on social needs like Healthcare and Education, which contrastingly would require lots more attention in the coming days. An interesting conundrum indeed!
The other view that I personally liked was this optimistic take from Andrew Ng, one of the pioneers in AI and now a Chief Scientist at Baidu, which is more realistic.
I support basic income. But, I think a better version would be to not pay you for ‘doing nothing’, but instead pay you to study.
While the reality of Artificial Intelligence and Robots taking our jobs is very much real, they are NOT so real as to be happening TOMORROW. As much as the job loss and the possible disastrous economic scenario that everyone foresees, the concerns expressed by many are very much about the lack of talent on future skills and the dropping levels of passion among this generation to learn.
If most of the low-skilled, rule based jobs are at risk and are increasingly getting displaced with Bots and Automation, it is only natural that the this generation shift towards higher levels of skills to stay relevant in the Future.
Here is my take on this.
There is a very high probability that Machines and Automation will improve the affordability and reach of many of these innovations to the masses and cause abundance. Technology advancements in areas like 3D Printing, Nano Materials, AI and BioMimicry could help us solve some of the complex problems that humans face and machines could give us a huge advantage in delivering those solutions in scale.
End of day, whats the point in producing better quality products and services, if there are no consumers? Who will pay for it? Machines cannot and need not buy a Tesla. Neither would they care to shop at Amazon Go.
Going back to the days of various transformations the human generations have survived, from the Industrial to the Information to the Internet to the Digital and now the AI revolution, every change has brought its own challenges, opportunities, newer jobs and most importantly relied on our ability to re-skill ourselves for the change.
One area where I really feel the present scenario can help is in creating good Teachers. Today, Teaching is not considered a profession of choice because of the greener pastures with the technology jobs. Perhaps, automation driven job loss could be a blessing in disguise that can help fix this challenge. You could see Teaching becoming a profession of choice.
As an optimist, it is only rational for us to wish something good for the coming generation that very much involves our own kids and not the doomsday like scenario with survival based on governmental subsidies.
In this era of humans having to coexist with machines, what is getting created is a new baseline for employable skills.
Let’s start Learning. Good Learning always results in Great Outcomes.