Automation and The Future of Jobs

The cost to start and run a business has dropped dramatically from just 10 years ago. 10 years ago, if you sold products and wanted to build a website, it would have cost you well over $400K to get up and running with very limited features. Today, you can sell your products online within hours and have an almost endless amount of features for $29 a month with the basic Shopify.com package.

These are just small examples of how automation, APIs (application programming interfaces) and increased computational power has changed the way businesses are started and operated. One key reason for this exponential growth is due to Moore’s Law. Moore’s law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. In simpler terms, computers are becoming smaller and more powerful at an accelerated rate.

Today, we literally carry all of the world’s information in the palm of our hand. The iPhone or Android phone you use every day has more computational power than the computers that sent Man to the moon.

This acceleration in technological advancement means more and more of our daily routines and even jobs will be fully or semi-automated within the next 10 years.

A recent 2017 study by The Mckinsey Global Institute cautions that as many as 375M or 14% of the Global workforce will need to switch occupational categories by 2030 due to automation. They also predict that nearly half of today’s work activities could be automated by 2055.

However, that doesn’t mean that robots are going to take over the world and all of our jobs. At least not yet. For most, this simply means we will become more efficient at our jobs and even have more time to explore things that we may enjoy more. For example, while at Google I would work on campaigns where I had to generate millions of keyword suggestions for clients using excel spreadsheets. MBAs from top business schools were doing the same. Within a year or two, this process was fully automated but we didn’t lose our jobs, we simply focused on more creative and strategic things to help our customers become even more successful. Automation can actually stimulate employment by lowering the price of a good or service and unleashing untapped demand.

The report says that the jobs in jeopardy from automation are the physical ones where people operate machinery, prepare fast food, collect and process data, originate mortgages and do paralegal and accounting work. These jobs are relatively easy for computers and artificial intelligence to replicate and do even better.

The jobs that are least at risk of automation are the jobs involving managing people, as well as high-expertise jobs like engineers, scientists, plumbers, educators, IT professionals and healthcare providers.

One example of an entire industry that will be disrupted by technology is the car industry. The advancements in autonomous self-driving vehicles will force taxi drivers, truckers, and car salespeople to switch occupations. Companies like Google, Uber, and Tesla already have millions of miles of self-driving under their belts and this is starting to accelerate as more cities and municipalities develop new laws to catch up with the technology. You see, the benefits of self-driving cars and trucks outweigh the risks and potential jobs losses in doing so. Mckinsey predicts that these types of jobs have a 55% chance of being fully automated by 2030. I would argue this will be closer to 100%.

Imagine a world with no traffic, no smog, no stop signs or stop lights, no angry drivers, no loss in productivity, no carpooling lanes, no more traffic stops or traffic tickets, no more taxis, no stolen cars, no more gas stations and most importantly no more deadly car accidents.

As John Lennon said, “it is easy if you try.” By 2030 it is estimated that autonomous vehicles will be ubiquitous throughout the entire world. Technically, very few people will actually own cars. We will simply hail one with our phones and one will be in front of us within minutes ready to drive us to our final destination. These “pods” will be powered by the sun, electricity and even magnets. They will be so efficient that traffic will become obsolete and accidents non-existent.

The future entrepreneurs within the car industry will be those who own a fleet of autonomous vehicles that make money 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by deploying their fleet to drive passengers to their next location.

How can this be possible in such a short amount of time?

Ray Kurzweil, the futurist and VP of Engineering at Google, literally wrote the book on it entitled, “The Singularity is Near.” In it, he explains that technology is decreasing in size and increasing in computational power exponentially. Every 10 years, technology decreases in size by 100x. This means, by 2025, the computational power within your smartphone will be small enough to fit into a red blood cell. This nanotechnology will not only radically change how we drive, but it will also change how we live, eat, breathe, love, think and transcend into what many believe will be a higher state of consciousness our current minds can’t even begin to comprehend.

Many of us will be a hybrid of AI and DNA. Medical advancements will allow for millions of “nanobot surgeons” to operate in our bloodstream, killing off diseases and cancers well before it can do any damage. In Kurzweil’s most recent book, “Transcend,” he says by 2030 technology will be able to rebuild any human organ with our own cells. If you need a new heart, a machine will build one for that is fully functional using 3D printers and 100% made from you.

Kurzweil believes that by this same time, the average lifespan will increase by 1 year every year. It is not unrealistic to have 200, 300 or even 400 plus-year-olds running around like teenagers by the end of this century.

But, in order to get there, we must take small, incremental steps towards a safer future. We must start with something that kills more people each year in the US than anything else that is non-health related. Deadly car accidents are number 3 on that list, behind cancer and heart attacks.

It might just very well be that the technology we develop to make self-driving cars, becomes a catalyst for developing technology that will be used to cure cancer, eradicate poverty, eliminate disease and help us live forever.

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