Automation = Lifelong Learning

According to University of Oxford researchers, 47 percent of workers may  be at risk of losing their jobs to automation, in particular those in mid-skilled retail jobs, and office workers like cashiers and telemarketers. A recent McKinsey report predicted that a smaller percentage of jobs would be at risk of being completely replaced by machines, but pointed out that the majority of jobs would see some of their tasks replaced by automation.

In other words, we’re all going to feel the impact of AI in some way. And our skills aren’t keeping pace.

The sheer number of both soft skills and technical skills already required by most modern companies is exploding. At the same time, the skills people do pick up remain relevant for a shorter and shorter amount of time. AI only accelerates this trend. We’ve crossed a threshold where the timed obsolescence for skills is shorter than for a single career.

The message: People need to adapt faster than ever. And this could have enormous consequences, including widespread unemployment and devastating disruptions for parts of the global economy.

One easily imaginable scenario: In the United States, there are approximately 3.5 million truck drivers. Suppose a truck company could retrofit a truck for $30,000 to make it into a reliable, safe autonomous vehicle. That would be a one-time cost, and the cost would be less than the annual salary of a truck driver. Once that scenario became possible, the industry would likely overhaul its fleet extremely rapidly.