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AI@Work: What Causes Things to Become Obsolete?

What causes things to become obsolete? In the transportation industry, cars replaced horses and planes replaced trains. Technical innovation, change of location, finance or the next big thing can be the instigator. Whatever triggers disruption, what is important is the ability to react quickly. AI is already affecting multiple segments in the global economy. Accounting, transportation, healthcare, banking, insurance, coding, government, manufacturing, legal, mining, defense and retail are only a few of the segments in danger. Education, communication, media, hospitality, entertainment, sports, agriculture, and real estate are a few more. AI is creating music, analyzing performance and targeting advertising. The longer AI is here, the more the influence of AI will be realized, and the impact is deep.

Technical innovation is usually what is blamed for obsolescence. The culprit is really the failure of sectors, organizations and people to react to it in a timely manner. The computer industry in the 1980s and 1990s is a perfect example of sector obsolescence. The minicomputer started a revolution in technology. It gave us smaller, faster and more individualized processors. It dominated the industry for about twenty years. Then it was replaced by servers and the personal computer. Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), Data General (DG) and Wang Laboratories are examples of an economic sector that vanished. Two of today’s big players in AI, IBM and Apple, almost went with them. What happened and what can we learn?

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