In the next 50 years, automation will take a tremendous leap forward through artificial intelligence. AI offers the capability to drastically improve the way we work and live. As cognitive technology continues to improve, it will open up avenues for personal growth, business innovation and the potential to enhance the consumer experience.
The birth pains, however, of societies centered on new economic models that leverage AI cannot be underestimated. In 2016, the divisions between those who felt they were gaining from globalization and those who felt left behind caused a political earthquake few had foreseen. Set against this backdrop, the world’s global elite are gathering together at this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos to forge a path for inclusiveness in what WEF is terming, the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
To ensure a positive result, business and political leaders must put policies in place that prepare workers for this profound shift, educating and training them for the jobs of the future and not fighting the tide. It has never been more important for business executives, lawmakers and regulators work together with communities to provide the kind of responsible leadership that will be the theme of this year’s Davos meeting. Urgent action to address the employment shift needs to be visible if the fears and frustration in segments of society that feel left out are not to be left to fester.
In the same week, here in the US, a new president takes office with a promise of being the greatest “job-producing” president in American history. But will those jobs be representative of America’s history or are they the jobs of tomorrow’s digital economy?
Current investment by the U.S. in labor market programs that help workers navigate job transitions, such as training and job-search assistance is lower than international and historical standards. A brief published by the U.S. Council of Economic Advisers in December 2016 entitled “Active Labor Market Policies: Theory and Evidence for What Works” noted that while OECD countries spent .5% of GDP on these programs in 2014, the U.S. spent .1%. More telling still is the fact that as a proportion of GDP, the U.S is spending less than half of what it did 30 years ago on such programs. Reversing this cycle of diminished investment and aligning it to the future digital economy should be a priority.
The degree to which a positive future materializes depends on the policy choices we make and the business strategies we pursue. With the help of AI and automation, mundane and dangerous work can be handled by machines under human supervision. Re-investing in our people to take on new roles. Re-inventing our businesses to create new opportunities that harness the strengths of human minds while leveraging the raw power of technology. Both these actions are required if we are to realize the promised doubling of economic growth in developed countries within 20 years, predicted by Accenture in its recently published “Fuel for Growth” study.
Let’s not leave it only to those meeting in Davos to steer us in the right direction, but be responsible leaders at all levels within society in championing the innovation that will take us to the next step in our evolution.
Chetan Dube is the CEO and President of IPsoft.