How long do you think it will take before machines do your job better than you do?
We are entering a new age of automation unlike anything that’s come before. According to a 2013 study, almost half of all jobs in the U.S. could potentially be automated in the next 20 years.
Machines are on the brink of becoming so good at breaking down complex jobs into many predictable ones, that for a lot of people; there will be no further room to specialize. We are on the verge of being out competed.
Digital machines do this via machine learning which enables them to acquire information and skills by analyzing data. This makes them become better at something through the relationships they discover. Machines teach themselves.
We make this possible by giving a computer a lot of data about the thing we wanted to become better at. Show a machine all the things you bought online and it will slowly learn what to recommend to you so you buy more things.
Machine learning is now meeting more of its potential because in recent years humans have started to gather data about everything; behaviour, weather patterns, medical records, communication systems, travel data and of course data about what we do at work.
What we’ve created by accident is a huge library machines can use to learn how humans do things and learn to do them better.
These digital machines might be the biggest job killer of all. They can be replicated/copied instantly and for free. When they improve you don’t need to invest in new metal things, you can just use the new code. And they have the ability to get better fast. How fast?
If your job involves complex work on a computer today you might be out of job even sooner than the people who still have jobs in factories.
There are actual real-world examples of how this transition might be happening. Watch the video (6:02) to see a San Francisco company offering a project management software for big corporations which is supposed to eliminate middle management positions.
So what’s actually happening is that the freelancers are teaching a machine how to replace them.
It’s far from certain that things will turn out negatively. The information Age and modern automation could be a huge opportunity to change human society and reduce poverty and inequality drastically. It could be a seminal moment in human history. The time we are in right now will strongly influence later development.
We’ll get back to that and possible solutions, like universal basic income, later.
We need to think big and fast because one thing is for sure. Machines are not coming. They are already here.