Bank of America announced last week that it had completed a 300 page research report analyzing the future of AI and robotics in terms of its impact on industries, jobs and the economy as well as opportunities it will create. In line with many analysts and technology insiders it confirms that robots will replace many of the jobs in manufacturing. No one will argue with this conclusion. It is already happening and it is happening not only in the developed world but in the developing world where many of our manufacturing jobs moved a decade ago to take advantage of cheap labor. China is the largest buyer of robots in the world today. In my book, released a year ago, I argued that increasingly the barrier to adoption of robots was not a technogical one but a cost barrier. Once wages rose to a point where a robot can do the job cheaper then a person then we would see mass adoption of robots in that industry. This tipping point has already occurred in manufacturing and I believe, as I have argued for awhile, that we are close to seeing this same thing happen in the retail and restaurant space. I stand by my prediction that we will see a fully automated fast food restaurant within 3 years!
Where Bank of Americas report breaks new ground is in its conclusion that knowledge work will increasingly be done by machines and software. This was a central tenet of my book and it has been the hardest concept for people to get their heads around. BofA writes:
"The combination of AI, machine learning, deep learning, and natural user interfaces (such as voice recognition) are making it possible to automate many knowledge worker tasks that were long regarded as impossible or impractical for machines to perform."
In my book, and in my blogs, I have argued for awhile that AI will replace doctors and lawyers before replacing plumbers. Of course AI won't replace all doctors or all lawyers but it will replace many of them and it will replace them in a relatively short amount of time. Not decades but years.
I attempt in the last third of my book to outline the traits and skills necessary for knowledge workers to remain relevant in an "AI powered" world.