It’s the jobs that lie in the middle of these extremes, the majority, where humans and bots will compete with each other.
That’s the draft of a vacancy ad copy from a not-too-distant future when bots will be giving us mere mortals a run for our money in more areas than we can imagine today. On the one side will be jobs specifically for humans – think ones that need a higher emotional quotient than the intelligence quotient. Like team managers, psychologists, nurses, politicians and social workers, among others. And then there will be jobs and careers where bots and automation will be a clear choice – bomb diffusers, rescue workers, drivers, cashiers, pharmacists, paralegals, and telemarketers, among others.
It’s the jobs that lie in the middle of these extremes, the majority, where humans and bots will compete with each other. And by all accounts, our evolutionary pace will prove to be fatally lagging when pitted against the supersonic speed with which the machines are learning and adapting. In that future, when the average bot will be smarter, swifter and more cost-effective (and less irritating) than the average human, which side will the ‘intelligent’ human be on? Will survival of the fittest mean the end of the human race as we know it? I risk sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but Singularity being achieved in our lifetime is a genuine concern raised by, among others, Jürgen Schmidhuber (the man heralded by some as the ‘father of AI’), Stephen Hawking, and Elon Musk.
Singularity refers to a hypothetical time in the future when there’ll be an intelligence explosion thanks to faster self-improvement cycles resulting in a generation of machines whose intelligence will be far, far superior to that of humans. Even if Singularity isn’t a near-term threat, automation-induced large-scale unemployment is. As the delegates at the third DIGITRANS forum heard yesterday in Dubai, we’re living through very interesting times, with the mega-trend of digital transformation bringing tremendous opportunities. Man and machine, we heard, may not necessarily compete – they could cooperate, collaborate and even collude for a better future. Whichever scenario plays out eventually, the next generation must be empowered with skills to help them decide when to step in, step up or step aside in the man vs. machine tug-of-war.
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