A.I. is Coming and Why You Should Care

The tipping point is that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. (Malcom Gladwell) That is what is about to happen with A.I. – Artificial Intelligence. We have heard about the advent of A.I. for years, but it lived more in the world of science fiction, rather than reality.  That has all changed, and it is poised to cause major disruption in our lives, and in the economy. Over the next ten years, A.I., along with robots, will increasingly replace people with technical skills. And while robots have long since disrupted the industrial age production line, leaving thousands of blue collar workers out of jobs, A.I. and new generations of robots are about to do the same for many white collar jobs.

Over the past several months I have read many articles about A.I.; the technology exists now, and more and more software will be able to write software, and automation will be able to oversee automation. As self-made billionaire Mark Cuban said this week, “I would not want to be a CPA right now. I would not want to be an accountant right now. I would rather be a philosophy major.”

A.I. is going to impact offices, managers, financial analysts, the medical world, how businesses operate, and even how you shop.

A.I. is already being used by human resource firms to better assess a candidate’s strengths, talents and interests. And A.I. is being tested to diagnose illnesses. In one study, A.I. could diagnose pulmonary hypertension better than cardiologists typically do. Cardiologists have about 60% accuracy. The A.I. system has an 80% accuracy.

What does this mean? In one study, it is believed that technology will make many current jobs obsolete. An Oxford University study suggests that 47% of jobs in the United States will be threatened by automation in the next 20 years.

Why should you care about A.I. and the disruption it will cause? Because it will impact your children. The tipping point is when the disruption occurs. More often than not, people and industries do not see it coming, even when all of the indications are there. Mainframe computer manufacturers did not see Apple coming or recognize the impact of the personal computer. Manufacturers and repairmen of televisions and radios operated by vacuum tubes did not see transistors coming – eliminating an entire industry. The decline of Sam Goody’s and Blockbuster are other examples of the impact of major disruptions.

The workforce will be very different by the time your children graduate college. Perhaps up to 50% of the workforce will be doing some sort of short-term, freelance work as opposed to traditional 9-5 jobs. I have read similar reports that indicate half of the work force will be consultants.  The reality is, we are still in a period of exponential change, and we do not know what jobs will exist and what specific skills will be needed.

And that is why the current educational system is out of date and out of sync.  I have been writing about this for a long time and I my voice is only one of many passionate, like-minded voices arguing for systemic educational change in our country for the sake of our children living in this exciting century.  

Universities and business leaders agree that the skills students need today and to be prepared for an unknowable future are different than those of the 20th century. And yet, in general, schools resist change. More disturbingly, policy makers who impose rules and standards on schools, and parents who are not informed, resist change to the detriment of our children.

But not everywhere! There are countries around the world changing their entire educational system to prepare their children for this century and its ever-changing economy. Sadly, not in the United States. The good news is that independent schools, like Hillel, and forward thinking public school districts in supportive communities are making much needed change.

Transformative change at schools with pre-existing mind-sets and cultures is very difficult to achieve. It’s easier to create a new school than to change an old one. While we do not have the luxury to start over, as we approach our 60th year, we are tenacious and determined to implement the systemic change necessary to create an environment where children can thrive and engage in the learning that is crucial for their future. We continue to work tirelessly to create a learning environment where students can truly become deep, curious, and flexible learners. Continuous learning, adaptability and curiosity will be the essential skills of the future along with creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

A.I. is here – the world will be different when your children graduate college. They deserve to be ready.

3 Responses to A.I. is Coming and Why You Should Care

  1. MAF says:

    AI and other forms of autonomous and semi-autonomous automation will surely have a big impact, but I believe the capabilities of these technologies are being over-sold, and the risks are not being correctly perceived.

    For example, in the realm of autonomous vehicles, I don’t believe full autonomy is going to be practical or affordable any time soon–the number of redundant sensors, and the amount of failsafe software required will guarantee self-driving cars will remain an exotic item for quite some time. At some point, fully autonomous cars will being to replace professional drivers, but only when the technology has been determined to be safer than a skilled human, and cheaper than what you could pay a skilled driver to do the work.

    The “determined safer” part is very difficult, because we humans are actually very good at processing visual information quickly.

    A totally different but important question, is, *should* we be trying to replace humans with machines? Flipping burgers is not a desirable job for most, but there are people who rely on these low skill jobs for their livelihood and purpose. In New Jersey and Oregon, pumping your own gas is illegal, and all stations are full service, for that very reason, to provide jobs for low skilled workers.

  2. Steve Freedman says:

    MAF – Based on the research and where AI has evolved, I am pretty certain that you will end up being surprised how fast this will all happen. Autonomous cars are closer than you think. Let’s check back in 5 – 10 years.

    Your other issue about jobs is the real issue for workers and the economy. I don’t think there is any stopping automation that is cheaper and as good or better than what humans can do. The challenges and stress to our economic system are what jobs can be created and what skills will be needed. Instead of claiming manufacturing jobs are coming back or that many white collar jobs will always be here, we should be creating job training programs and mid-level skills programs for the jobs that will be needed. More and more people will be left behind if they don’t have a college degree or if they do not have specific training in more technical skills.

  3. IamnotaRussianHacker says:

    Automation and AI are really different entities, but the line really seems to get blurred lately. In prior generations, robots could be programmed to do simple tasks. Now computers can do much more complex tasks, with intricate decision trees and pattern recognition, such as in the rapid development of self-driving cars. (BTW they are going to be here sooner than you probably think, and even if they are imperfect they will not be as careless or distractable with calls, coffee, or texts, and this will soon be far safer than humans).
    Education must be geared towards the next challenges, not the last, and automation rapidly follows what previously humans had to be trained for.
    During the industrial revolution, people needed to learn to do simple tasks to fulfill the jobs of unskilled laborers. Soon automation replaced them and skilled labor was needed. In the last several decades robots and computers became able to many skilled labor jobs, and to remain “well-educated” people needed to be taught to think and analyze. Now “A.I. Systems” are starting to replace us as analysts, becoming better at pattern recognition, with a vaster library of data available than a typical human memory, and with complex (and sometimes self-improving) decision trees. Steve is right that many will be consultants–they will have to rely on intelligence and creativity. The time for educated or trained people to get by as analysts will soon give way as it did for skilled laborers and unskilled laborers earlier than that. (Of course they will not replace humans completely in those areas, but the demand for humans to do this work will drop precipitously).
    As for the resistance to educational change? Making thinkers is hard; developing creativity requires a great deal of effort and time. It is far easier to mass produce human automatons than to create the thinking, creative leaders and citizens of tomorrow.

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