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#AI@Work: This Revolution is Different

Fears about technologies are not new. Automation and computerization are not new. Humans are preprogramed to “fear the future.” We are fretting about a robot dominated world but if that really does happen, GDP should grow, not stagnate. In other words, we should all be much better off. That is as long as we share the wealth. On one hand, corporate executives act like they are concerned for workers because of automation. On the other, they simultaneously embrace innovative technologies. They have to in order to improve efficiency and remain competitive with others. The bottom line is that in a capitalist world it’s all about making money.

Capitalism is all about return on investment (ROI). There is a tremendous amount of pressure to increase revenue and drive profits. If a job can be done more cheaply and better by a computer than by a human being, then the computer will do it. Instead of reflecting on fear and anxiety, it’s time for humans to plan for the jobs on the horizon.
This kind of revolution is different than the agricultural revolution or industrial revolution. This time humans are being challenged in the one area that has always made us unique, our ability to think. In the revolutions that came before, from hunter gatherer to farming, from farming to industrial, we didn’t have to worry about thinking. Our intelligence is what differentiated us from everything else.

The impact this is having on the labor force is staggering. Incomes at Google and Facebook are in the mid six figures. The problem is not a shortage of STEM skills but a shortage of thinking skills. Knowing just doesn’t cut it anymore. This new era spotlights deficiencies in our educational system. Our ability to teach people to think at higher levels needs improvement. These differences are magnified by differences in income and exposure to decision making and choices. Lower income children just don’t have as much exposure to critical decision making. The gap between haves and have nots is getting wider.


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