Tags: Cybersecurity | ai | autonomous | industrial | information | robots

Few Professions Immune From Disruptive Tech Revolution

tech rapidly becomes obsolete affecting occupations

(Dario Lo Presti/Dreamstime)

By Tuesday, 22 January 2019 09:19 AM Current | Bio | Archive

As discussed more extensively in my just-released book "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity," we are at the very beginning of an artificial intelligence (AI) revolution, one pervasively impacting our lives and workplaces.

A 2017 McKinsey & Company report concluded that employment transitions to these disruptive information technology-driven influences will be very challenging  — "matching, or even exceeding, the scale of shifts out of agriculture and manufacturing seen in the past."

The study projected that about half of all global workplace activities could theoretically be automated, at least to some degree, using currently demonstrated technologies.

At least one-third of the constituent activities in about 60 percent of all professional occupations could be automated as well, although few professions — less than 5 percent — could be fully eliminated.

Nevertheless, almost all professions can expect to experience transformative impacts.

Many people legitimately worry that the resulting losses of industries and jobs destroyed through the "disruption" component of AI may inevitably outweigh the benefits of the creation of new ones. Others more optimistically believe that while some industries and work roles will indeed fall as casualties of new technologies, they will be replaced by even greater, more satisfying and open-ended opportunities.

In any case, the ever-escalating pace of advancements in AI-driven machine learning and automation technologies which already perform a range of routine physical activities better and more cheaply than humans, are also increasingly capable of surpassing certain of our cognitive judgement capabilities as well.

One example of AI superiority is in cancer screening — a process that analyzes separate aspects of cell color, size and shape before integrating outcomes. Visual pattern recognition software which can store tens of thousands of images is estimated to be 5 percent to 10 percent more accurate than the average physician. This important diagnostic medicine advancement can expedite early malignancy stage discovery and selection of the best treatment option.

A medical start-up called "Arterys" has a program that can perform a magnetic-resonance imaging analysis of blood flow through a heart in just 15 seconds — this compared with 45 minutes required by humans.

Medical robots can already assist surgeons in removing damaged organs and cancerous tissue. In 2016, a prototype robotic surgeon called Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) outperformed human surgeons in a test in which both had to repair the severed intestine of a live pig.

Any legal profession job that involves lots of mundane document reviews (what lawyers spend a lot of time doing) is also vulnerable to human obsolescence. Software programs such as "e-discovery" are already being used by companies to scan legal papers and predict which documents are relevant.

This can save clients from lots of billable hour charges.

Meanwhile, new user-friendly software applications such as LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are providing direct minimum-cost public access alternatives to justice by enabling clients to solve their own problems without consulting legal experts.

The McKinsey & Company researchers estimate a potential to additionally automate up to 43 percent of all financial and insurance services. Mortgage brokers, for example, spend as much as 90 percent of their time processing applications.

More sophisticated verification processes for documents and credit applications could reduce that proportion to about 60 percent.

Big banks are now using software programs that can suggest financial market bets, construct hedges, and act as robo-economists, using natural language. BlackRock, the biggest fund company in the world, has replaced some highly-paid pickers with computer algorithms.

So where do humans still hold performance advantages over computers?

At least for now we continue to be masters of tasks that involve general intelligence in formulating a problem in the first place, instead of just solving one. And while AI is superior at crunching large data sets and recognizing patterns, such as reviewing legal documents, human lawyers and judges remain to be much better at critical thinking and applying lessons-learned.

We humans also remain better at interactions with fellow Sapiens which involve empathy in any personal counseling realm such as medicine and other health care professions. Whereas an AI assistant can answer factual questions, offering good advice or purposeful listening is a different matter.

Although there are no reasons to believe that artificial intelligence will replace the need for creative thinking, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork and personal initiative, workers everywhere will nevertheless need to rethink traditional notions of where they work, how they work, and what talents and capabilities they bring to that work.

As history demonstrates, we humans are a very adaptable lot.

After all, we not only survived first Industrial Revolution, but came out of it living better and longer than all preceding generations.

Yes, as before, there will be business and employment winners and losers in all professions. And once again, the Information Revolution will likely prove that we humans will leverage our innovations to provide better lives in a better world.

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of several books, including "Reinventing Ourselves: How Technology is Rapidly and Radically Transforming Humanity" (2019), "Thinking Whole: Rejecting Half-Witted Left & Right Brain Limitations" (2018), "Reflections on Oceans and Puddles: One Hundred Reasons to be Enthusiastic, Grateful and Hopeful” (2017), "Cosmic Musings: Contemplating Life Beyond Self" (2016), and "Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom" (2015). He is currently working on a new book with Buzz Aldrin, "Beyond Footprints and Flagpoles." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Yes, as before, there will be business and employment winners and losers in all professions. And once again, the information revolution will likely prove that we humans will leverage our innovations to provide better lives in a better world.
ai, autonomous, industrial, information, robots
Tuesday, 22 January 2019 09:19 AM
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