It’s hard to think that the mobile phones of the late 20th century just made phone calls or allowed you to text. Today, application capabilities along with cameras, accelerometers, hi-fidelity displays, GPS, massive storage capacity, etc., all add up to an advanced mobile computing platform that also allows you to make phone calls. Mobile phones surpassed PCs in November 2016 as the world’s primary device for internet access, something that previous generation mobile phones couldn’t even do.
The moniker “smartphone” is a good proxy for the differences we’re going to see between the industrial world of the 20th century and the smart, AI-powered world of the 21st century. Over the next decade or so, technology is going to change every aspect of the way we live our lives.
So what is the transition to the autonomous, smart economies of the future going to look like?
ChatGPT, deep learning, generative AI and robots “taking our jobs”
ChatGPT, the AI-based, natural language chatbot, has taken the world by storm. In just two months, from its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT saw 100 million users subscribe to the platform – the fastest-growing consumer application in the history of the internet. There are dozens of jobs at risk from future AI technology that algorithms like ChatGPT hope to usher in. NY Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, wrote this about the era that ChatGPT is today shepherding.It is difficult to predict exactly how A.I. will impact the demand for knowledge workers, as it will likely vary, depending on the industry and specific job tasks. However, it is possible that in some cases, A.I. and automation may be able to perform certain knowledge-based tasks more efficiently than humans, potentially reducing the need for some knowledge workers. Paul Krugman, NY Times “Does ChatGPT Mean Robots Are Coming for the Skilled Jobs?”; Dec. 6, 2022
While dozens of jobs are likely to be replaced by AI over the longer term, in the meantime, advances in artificial intelligence will lead to the creation of a wave of new jobs and companies: AI-assisted doctors, lawyers, bankers and even artists, working in tandem with AI to provide better outcomes for customers, differentiation amongst competitors and, of course, greater margins. Yes, new jobs are being created: AI whisperers who understand the nuances of crafting the best prompts in ChatGPT, Midjourney or Dall-E to get the optimal output and results. Overall, the smart world will create a whole new class of employment that is based around AI integration.
By early next decade, we’ll be asking our doctor if they have confirmed our diagnosis with AI, the ultimate second opinion. We won’t really have call centers like we do today; for most remote customer service interactions, we’ll chat with a next-generation ChatGPT conversationally, and we won’t care that it’s not human as the service will be bespoke, personalized and exceptional. If not, it won’t be able to compete. The movies we watch and the books we read will be enhanced by algorithms with huge chunks of film and prose generated from a script written by AI.
The 2030s: Infrastructure goes smart
In the next decade, robotic process automation will smooth out organizational deficiencies. Autonomous transportation systems will whisk widgets from automated factories to our doors. Digital identities and passports will incorporate our sequenced genome, medical records and a link to our digital twin in the metaverse. A personal, AI-based agent will assist us with everything from longevity and extended health span to our individual carbon footprint through to cryptocurrencies, CBDCs and our vault of digital assets.
As our economies shift into the Augmented Age, which will be based on four key disruptive themes – Artificial Intelligence, Experience Design, Smart Infrastructure and HealthTech – governments will begin to tout their investments in artificial intelligence and next-generation infrastructure as a competitive national advantage. Every modern economy is already making a significant shift towards carbon neutrality and sustainable energy systems. But just as climate-resilient infrastructure will be a significant driver of investment in the 2030s and beyond, even more so will be investments in autonomous city-level infrastructure. From improvements in national healthcare, education, transportation, food security, water and air quality, waste management and recycling to general improvements in government and civil administration, the 2030s will bring a wave of retooling our economies with machine-based intelligence. Why?
At a market level, competition will be defined by operational efficiency, which is only possible with higher and higher levels of automation.
Elon Musk is famous for saying that “the best part is no part” in defining a key element in his design teams’ innovation strategy. In governments of the future, the best government will be an autonomous government that has reduced the need for human capital in pursuit of the most efficient resource management and capital utilization possible with public funds. Of course, there will be plenty of spending related to climate mitigation and energy reform alone, but the push for more efficient government will be a key element of the emerging smart world.
Man with machine or man vs machine?
While AI has tremendous disruptive potential for labor markets, the short-term trend will be for corporations and employees looking to enhance their productivity through the use of AI. For the next decade, we can likely split the world into two camps: those who use AI to enhance their usefulness and those who fight against the impact of AI on traditional roles by the same set of technologies. We know this because, since the time of the Luddites, this is how the world has been divided.
Over the last 300 years, however, it has become clear that if you bet against technology, you lose every time. When it comes to AI, the incentives for deploying this class of technology are already clear. While there are questions on the ethics and viability of AI enhancing or replacing traditionally human roles in society, there are fewer questions on the motivations of AI investors and creators.
Adaptability individually means we need to align ourselves with AI as an emerging force in our careers, markets and corporations. If not, the economic risk will be increasingly acute the smarter our world becomes.
Brett King is an author, world-renowned futurist and media personality. He hosts the world’s number one fintech radio show and podcast, Breaking Banks, which has 6.5 million listeners, and is the founder of the mobile start-up, Moven.