There's a story from an old article in "Future magazine" that I've found recently. A group of experts was invited to discuss the future of New York in 1860. For hours, these brilliant minds speculated what will happen to the City after one hundred years. The conclusion was clear, but unpleasant to all – in one hundred years New York City will not exist.
The reason was simple. They looked at the curve of population growth and said if it will continue to climb at the same rate, to move around in such a big city, people will need six million horses, and the manure of the horses will be impossible to deal with. The city was already drowning in manure.
The population grew, but before this "dirty old time technology" choked up the city; after 40 years, in 1900, there was already more than one thousand car manufacturing companies. Civilization moved forward and people adapted as they usually did.
Now, after a hundred years, we are on the horizon of the next civilization progress and we don't need a 100-year future prediction. Artificial intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Robotics not only stirs the imagination, but already changes our daily life.
On the horizon of the future
One of the most promising startups in the world, Magic Leap, can already show a prototype of Mixed Reality computers, which is literally, nothing more but a small glass in front of your eye. In real-time, it watches your cornea, looks after your arms and scans the surrounding to display live and realistic images.
Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are the next big inflection points in technology after PC, the Web and the Smartphone. Since we will literally work with space, computers will change forever.
But that is only a different computing experience that may slightly change the work in modern offices. Yes, it will change computers (that is our main office tool), but I highly doubt it will rapidly increase productivity.
The thing that is really shifting the global productivity and labor market today is a bit different and, however, frightening next generation technology. It's Artificial Intelligence.
Is AI a better employee than you?
According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, after World War II, new employment and productivity graphics grew evenly, but after the year 2000, productivity rose and employment possibilities grew worse. According to another statistics source, employment opportunities in the U.S. industry decreased from 22% in 1980 to 10% in 2011.
Lots of populists tend to blame migrants, but the progress of technology is the key reason as to why getting a job becomes more challenging.
Despite the fact, nowadays, AI is very limited and specialized AI algorithms are able to perform a very specific task, electronic circles work about one million times faster than biochemical brains. That's why in certain tasks, mechanisms' advantage over people is obvious.
Robots do not complain about anything, do not get tired, do not leave, do not create trade unions and always do what you say. AI with its robotic "body" is the most productive worker, not only in the 21st century, but also in entire human history.
Most vital human occupations
Today's reality is somehow similar to industry age when people needed to adapt to rapid progress growth. Traditional occupations faded; new, more modern professions appeared.
Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum published the study which predicts that in the period of 2015-2020, the fastest job will decline in the clerical and administrative area, production and manufacturing, driving, construction, as well as in the resource extraction sector. Every job that includes working in niche sectors and in narrow areas can fade in less than 10 years.
Professions, which are least affected, require creativity, customer service, communication with people and the ability to cope with unpredictable circumstances and unforeseen difficulties.
There are few attempts to use AI in creative industries, but they are both weird and hilarious as this short film written by algorithms.
In a near 10-year future, AI will perform the majority of routine works in modern countries and there are plenty of examples in 2016 already:
A few weeks ago, Uber Self-Driving truck delivered the first parcel.
Law firm, BakerHostetler employed their first AI lawyer "Ross".
Self-service cashier already dominates in the United Kingdom "Sainsbury's" shops.
Startup "Momentum Machines" made a robot which can produce 360 burgers in an hour. McDonald's, as a major client, plans to open self-service restaurants.
You will not find a single person in "Calsberg" warehouse in Finland – it's absolutely dark; machines do cargo operations and even repair each other.
We are on the horizon of the future, so the least smart thing we can do is fully ignore AI, do our daily jobs and not change at all.
The bright future
It's normal to imagine the world in two colors – bright and dark. Since there are 7 billion people around the world, and millions of people will lose their routine-single-task jobs in less than 10 years, you may think that the end of the world is coming.
However, the biggest obstacle of all is a fear of change. We don't like to change our routine, although it is easy to get used to the change. Back then, in the era of industry revolution, when traditional occupations faded, blacksmiths turned into mechanics, spinners became product line assemblers and craftsmen evolved into engineers.
Economist Lawrence Katz says that in the long term, people have always adapted and invented new forms of works. Millions of people will lose their routine jobs, but will find new ones, smarter ones, jobs which evolved together with AI revolution technology.
Artificial Intelligence will set millions of workers free from routine-single-task jobs and will offer to use our brains in more original and healthier ways.
Our future generation may, and probably will, ask how people could ever work such robotic jobs.
Remember what people thought about the invention of computers in the 1940s. Experts saw the progression and how fast computers worked compared with humans. People tended to believe that in less than ten years, they will have to work only 3 hours per day and computers will do everything else; nonetheless, people started to work even more.
The reality is that people use the best technology as a tool to achieve better goals. We changed six million horses into yellow taxis and machines without regret, so AI and humans will work in perfect synthesis as well.
The biggest obstacle of all is a fear of change, because we don't like to switch our routine. Changes bring challenges, but once we overstep the temporary inconveniences of new revolution, we start to live better lives than we ever lived.
Who knows what we will see in one hundred years, when we already meet the future today. Don't be scared and frightened. Be curious, educate yourself every day and adapt to the changes. The world moves and you need to move with it.
"Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself."
— Jalaluddin Rumi