The future of automation and work

Michael Osborne, a Professor at Oxford, has a great 45 slide deck on the future of automation and work. Here are a few of the notes I’m thinking about –

“If a typical person can do a task with less than one second of thought, we can probably automate it using AI either now or the near future.” | Andrew Ng

Quantity of available work: Well defined portions of retail, service jobs, accounting, auditing, and logistics – some of the highest employed jobs – are automatable. These jobs involve physical and motor skills. On the other hand, jobs that require more cognitive skills are not. However, it is the former that accounts of high employment numbers.

Quality of available work: So, what about the fact that large sections of the population moved away from challenging, industrial work to become iOS developers, Yoga instructors, and so on? To that, Osborne has a powerful stat – it took ~60 years for the English revolution to improve the life of workers. 

The 60 year stat is powerful and important. On the one hand, it signals the importance of walking into this machine learning driven workplace paradigm with caution. We don’t need sentient AI to disrupt our lives – just take the machine learning techniques available to us today and apply it universally.

Second, there isn’t a reason we won’t be able to find a way forward and adjust to the new reality. The question is – how can we work together to do it faster?