W.What jobs are safe when computers become more efficient? What if they caught up with the capabilities of the human brain in more and more areas?
Dramatic Outlook has made the rounds in recent years. And an impressive progression – when computers beat the best chess players, beat the people at Go or poker, that was in the headlines.
In fact, no one knows the exact number of jobs that are truly threatened and when. The range of skills that will be unnecessary or required in the future cannot be clearly defined, regardless of how detailed some of the studies that may appear. Of course, what is sometimes obscured, technological advancement has always been associated with many new, well-paying jobs that did not exist before.
The Four Waves of Artificial Intelligence
Kai-fu Lee saves himself from naming exact percentages. What it delivers at the Digital DLD Conference is a well-structured overview of what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can and cannot do yet – and how professionals can prepare themselves and their children.
And Kai-Fu Lee knows what he’s talking about. He has researched artificial intelligence for many years and has many years of experience as a manager at leading internet companies – he was the one who set up Google in China. He is currently the head of his Beijing-based venture capital firm and is also known for his book on the battle of artificial intelligence between the US and China.
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Kai-Fu Lee split the latest breakthrough in artificial intelligence into four waves. First of all, tech companies with countless users, who from their behavior have created better search engines and recommendation algorithms. Then what he calls “artificial intelligence for business”: insurance companies, for example, that can better assess and classify risks with the help of AI. Third, computer programs that are able to partially perceive and understand their environment. And fourth, and finally, a true “autonomous artificial intelligence”, that is, artificial units that can independently carry out certain activities.
He predicts that “one thing is clear: all of these waves will continue to evolve in the coming years.” They will drastically change the world of work. 2022 is not his main focus. But maybe 2032, for people who are 30 or 40 today, will be in the middle of their careers.
Ready for the new era
He’s also certainly aware of the job characteristics that put these workers at risk in competing with increasingly advanced computers. Repetitive work – that is, when people are constantly performing the same maneuver or operation – is vulnerable. It’s also a chore. Many have said and heard that already.
The third feature is more exciting: improvement in the broad sense. He cites radiologists as an example, programs that can evaluate x-ray images more accurately than humans. Other jobs are also evident – which is why they are so important: It’s not about “blue” jobs that are repeatedly said to be particularly vulnerable. It’s also about people who work in the office today and may not even believe that computers will be able to compete with them in a few years.
In his view, “complex workplaces” remain virtually “safe”. People who have to combine knowledge from different areas have safe jobs in his presentation – at least when it comes to artificial intelligence. Incidentally, he also understands the word “complex” in the physical sense, because robots are still far from being able to move like humans.
However, he makes it clear that just waiting is not an option for anyone. “We must proactively plan for our future and the future of our children.” New learning, adjusting again and again. Kai-Fu Lee is neither the first nor the only one to give this advice. However, it’s still critical, especially in this pandemic – sometimes we fix ourselves so hard on the virus that it seems as if we have forgotten that there will be time after that at some point.