AI and automation is changing labour landscape: Marc Benioff

AI automation technology digital

Mar 27, 2017 (LBO) – Every individual, business, industry and government is being impacted by breakthroughs in computing power, connectivity, artificial intelligence, biotechnology and other innovative technologies, says Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a leading cloud computing company.

This revolution without boundaries is spreading with incredible velocity, he wrote in an article to the World Economic Forum. To meet the challenge, he said the future workforce will have to be equipped with necessary skills.

“By 2020, more people will have mobile phones than have electricity or running water in their homes or villages. Cars are becoming intelligent robots on wheels. Factories are automating manufacturing, displacing tens of thousands of workers.”

“Call centres are turning to AI-powered chatbots to manage customer interactions. We have already outsourced a lot of work to algorithms – managing financial portfolios, qualifying loan applications, reading MRIs, recommending products and optimizing travel routes. The human genome has become as readable and editable as a text document, transforming precision medicine.”

AI and increased automation are having a significant impact on employment, and could lead to a crisis of workforce development, contributing to a growing global inequality gap, he wrote.

“By one estimate, nearly half of jobs worldwide could be at risk over the next two decades due to AI and automation. At the same time, entirely new categories of jobs are emerging to replace those given over to the dramatic shift in work. By one estimate, 65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs in categories that don’t yet exist.”

In the US there are more than 500,000 open technology jobs, but universities produce only 50,000 science graduates each year.

“We need to prepare our young people for the workforce of tomorrow, investing in areas such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education and in creating apprenticeships as paths to career readiness.”

The centre he is associated with has identified an initial set of priorities, ranging from autonomous vehicles and precision medicine to the internet of things and blockchain. All the priorities are interconnected, and collectively will redefine the nature of work.

Technology is neither good nor bad, it’s what you do with it that makes the difference, said Benioff. As in previous eras, new technologies also carry negative consequences. AI and genetic engineering in the wrong hands could alter our future in undesirable ways.

“For too long we have done our work in isolation, unaware of the effects our innovations have on societies and environment as a whole. As business leaders, government officials, educators and citizens, we need to create a common set of principles and values that take us to the future that we all want together.”

“I believe that businesses are incredible platforms for change, and that every business leader can have a direct role in creating economic opportunity for millions of people by investing in education and training programmes for existing and potential talent. ”

As Prof. Schwab says, “The Fourth Industrial Revolution can compromise humanity’s traditional sources of meaning – work, community, family, and identity – or it can lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a sense of shared destiny. The choice is ours.”

The full article can be read here