Disruptive Technologies and the Future of Work

In a recent WSJ article, “The Human Promise of the AI Revolution,” Kai-Fu Lee, an AI expert and venture capitalist, explored the impact of artificial intelligence and other potential disruptive technologies on the future of humanity and makes an eloquent plea for a thoughtful approach to evolving public policy choices that will shape future societies.

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While advances in AI and machine learning seem poised to affect many aspects of our lives, one element that is already being directly influenced is our daily experiences in our jobs. While disruptive technologies have long influenced and changed the course human history, there is little doubt that technological innovations over the past 50+ years (in conjunction with a shifting global economy) have had significant implications for the very nature of work.

While technological innovations will likely influence continued shifts in global labor markets, changes in organizations and institutions, and the displacement of many current jobs, human history shows us that new types of jobs, even entirely new professions (that we can’t even comprehend now), will be created to respond to new challenges and opportunities. While routinized tasks (not just manual labor, but even complex professional tasks and processes) will likely be increasingly turned over to machines, we will need a new breed of technologically skilled worker that also has a heightened tolerance for ambiguity, finely tuned critical thinking skills, and the ability to recognize bias and acknowledge and appreciate complex ethical concerns. We will increasingly need individuals with strategic vision, collaborators, integrators, creators, and innovators. The very best of the stuff of humanity.

We don’t have a crystal ball and even the best predictive analytics and AI can’t tell us what the future actually holds. However, recent trends (and human history) suggest that huge shifts will likely occur sooner than later. Are we ready ready for the challenges and opportunities ahead?

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