No one can have failed to notice the sheer number of stories that seem to make their way onto the front pages almost every day. Personally, I love seeing technology evolve but from an ethical perspective I do wonder what this will do to the job market and perhaps more importantly, what it’ll do with our own sanity if the human race isn’t kept busy. Are we simply going to re-train people (assuming there’s work for them to re-train in of course), or are most of us going to become shareholders in businesses and generate our livelihoods from the profits these firms generate?
I’m wondering more than ever now because in the last few weeks’ I’ve been surprised about the range of industries and professions that are beginning to turn towards AI which in me and others raises questions.
Some of you may have seen the following stories –
- The government has recently announced that ‘platoons’ of largely driverless trucks will be trialled on British motorways in 2018. These truck convoys may have a driver in the lead vehicle but not in those following.
- I came across a story where Researchers from the Harper Adams University in Shropshire have developed a world first in automation to have managed to sow and harvest a field of barley using nothing but robots. Machines planted the crop, drones monitored it checking the soil samples over the seasons and a driverless combine and tractor completed the harvest.
- I listened to a podcast that talked about machine learning AI being used in the finance sector. Last year in the US eight of the top 10 performing hedge funds were traded by computer systems that had embedded complex algorithms which made faster and more accurate decisions over when to buy or sell stock.
Couple this with the fact that today I’ve yet again lost a game of chess to my computer’s software which tracks my lousy moves all too easily.
Joking aside, is this level of development great for mankind or will it have lasting repercussions in years to come. When, if ever will we press the button to stop this level of ‘progress’ so that we can begin to safeguard our own sense of value? And for marketers, can they ethically promote this technology, assuming of course that marketers haven’t been replaced first by a digital based system that automatically identifies potential customers and fires off creative campaigns which trigger another computer based system to calculate instantly the benefits for the buying firm?
I know I’d only considered the benefits of such technology as being beneficial to those in low-paid mundane jobs, as I saw these people being redistributed within the firm into roles that relied on human intervention. But I’m now beginning to think differently.
For example, most of the civilized world has a welfare state where those unable to work are provided for (to some extent). But if we’re going to automate more and more jobs this is surely set to increase, possibly even explode putting even more pressure on the system of governance.
Today, there is the emergence of many ‘super-companies’, companies who are becoming so large they are investing in other highly complex and therefore valuable growth sectors. Take for example Elon Musk the South African born Canadian-American business tycoon who following his success with his battery powered Tesla he’s forging ahead with Space X; Richard Branson too is moving gradually into Space projects with his Virgin Galactic programme and Jeff Bezos the CEO and founder of Amazon who is another of these visionaries who refuses to be shackled by those limited by planet Earth with his Blue Origin business.
If these truly represent the future, then it’s clear to my mind that technological companies will continue to thrive and the demand for these roles will too. So, for those people who aren’t able (for whatever reason) to stay ahead of the development curve of AI and other technological transformations the future might not be as bright as one firm once put it.
If that’s the case our grandchildren and their children in turn will need a very different education to the one that’s on offer today.
On the 26th October, 2017 I’m attending a Chartered Institute of Marketing event in Birmingham which will be looking at the subject of robotic technology and how it’s likely going to evolve in communications, and like my blog, will be set against a backdrop of putting humans first. There are going to be several speakers which will include researchers and strategists plus more to be announced in due course. If you would like to attend the event for free as my guest (advance tickets priced at £65 – no cash alternative), please drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org simply stating why you would benefit from attending the event and I will select two people to join me on the day. The deadline for responses is Friday 6th October 2017. The event runs from 08.30 until noon (transport is not provided).
However, if you can’t make the 26th October but wish to share your views on this huge subject please do get in touch.