A recent report from PwC found that automation, robotics and artificial intelligence stand to make 30% of all UK jobs redundant in just 15 years’ time – with losses as high as 50% in some sectors. Couple this trend with the looming emergence of 3D printing, distributed manufacturing, self-driving cars and the Internet of Things, and the numbers could be even higher.
But it’s not just manually intensive, blue-collar jobs on the line.
It’s now 20 years since IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov, and the new generation of AIs can already outperform accountants, lawyers, doctors, telemarketers and even the world’s best GO master. In some sectors, it is already more cost-effective to completely automate the entire value chain from extraction, through production, distribution and delivery to the customer – with almost no human involvement whatsoever – than it is to maintain a human-operated supply chain.
The age of intelligent machines has well and truly arrived.
Should we be worried? Professor Stephen Hawking has stated that AI could be the greatest thing ever for humanity…or it could kill us all. While Elon Musk and Bill Gates have also expressed concerns about the existential risks posed by smarter than human artificial intelligence.
But it’s not all “Skynet”, Terminator and dystopia on the horizon. AI, robotics and automation are also helping transform healthcare, environmental management and sustainability, cutting carbon emissions, delivering greater efficiencies, minimising health and safety risks, speeding innovation, saving lives and freeing workers from mindless drudgery so they can work on more fulfilling and satisfying tasks.
How should we prepare for - and respond to - the radical transformations being unleashed by this Fourth Industrial Revolution?
Can we make the machines work for the greater good to help build a better world for all? Or are we unleashing the forces of our own destruction, servitude and obsolescence?
Will the rise of the machines, require fundamental changes to our economic system, the adoption of universal incomes, and the creation of entirely new industries to keep people occupied and employed?
Or will it be the death of work as we know it, leaving us to while away our days, sipping piña coladas in a beachside hammock? Or bloodied, hungry and desperate, rising up like John Connor or the Paris mob in a new post-apocalyptic hell?
These are the ideas we will explore in our September Crowd Forum on “The Rise of the Machines”. Join us as we delve into both the positive and negative implications of this fascinating and radical transformation, whose impacts are already being felt.
Many of the early phase benefits of automation, AI and robotics revolve around radical improvements to business processes. There is little doubt that these technologies can be applied effectively to streamline processes, improve efficiencies, reduce costs and free workers from dirty, dangerous or dispiriting drudgery. But what are the best strategies for companies looking to take advantage of these technologies? Which strategic approaches have been shown already to work? How can companies get strategically smart about smart machines and automation?
SBTs are the foremost way for companies to manage their carbon emission reductions in a way that is consistent with the 2-degree pathway. But SBT implementation can be technically challenging. In essence, SBTs enable the equitable sharing out amongst businesses of the carbon emissions reductions needed to limit global warming to no more than 2°C. It is a discipline that is both data and process dependent – making it ripe for AI enhanced innovation. As Nick Hay from Edelman recently said, “If AI governed the business world, it would likely use SBTs”. This roundtable will delve into science-based targets, what they are, how they work and touch on the possible role of AI in helping companies achieve them.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is empowering the fourth industrial revolution, with intelligent machines tackling new cognitive tasks at scale, leading to enormous economic efficiency gains and disruption across the labour market. But what will be the net impact of AI on society and the environment? Can AI be harnessed to help deliver the SDGs? Which SDGs are ripe for AI and automation-empowered disruptive innovation?
As we transition from centralised fossil-fuel powered energy generation and storage, towards ever greater use of renewables and hyper-distributed generation and storage, AI can undoubtedly play a major part in empowering, optimising and managing demand, supply and generation. How can businesses get ahead of the trend, and start using AI to better manage and optimise their own energy use? What role can AI play in helping companies achieve 100% renewable energy objectives?
Much has been made of the looming impact of automation, AI and robotics on employment, and the projected number of job losses clearly pose a major challenge for the economy. If half the population can't find jobs, what impact will this have on society? Will it give us more free time for leisure, creativity and helping others? Or will it be a recipe for massive social upheaval and unrest? Will it drive unprecedented levels of inequality and obscene wealth disparity between the owners of the machines and everyone else? Or can smart machines actually support and enhance job satisfaction creating a better work/life balance and ensuring a fairer society?
Supply chain management has traditionally been a fundamentally human discipline, but that is rapidly changing. The use of automation, robotics, AI, IoT and distributed manufacturing are radically disrupting traditional supply chain practices. This session will consider how companies can optimise their supply chains with these technologies. How do you determine costs vs benefits? What is the business case for supply chain automation? What are the implications for sustainable supply chain management?
The rise of the machines raises a great number of tricky ethical questions - most of which we are woefully unprepared for. Is it ethical to replace your workforce entirely with machines? What happens after the end of jobs? How do we fairly distribute the wealth created by the rise of the machines? Should we tax the robots? Do intelligent machines have rights? Should they be treated humanely? Can smart machines be held responsible for their actions? How can we stop AI from doing harm?
With up to 40% of UK jobs expected to be lost within 20 years, many have touted a universal wage as a possible solution to looming mass unemployment - and trials of the concept are already taking place or being considered in Finland, Scotland, NZ and Canada. But is this the answer? Are there better options, for instance, with civic work, nature renewal projects or mass retraining, upskilling and mobilisation for social or environmental causes? This roundtable will discuss the implications for work in the machine age.
For many, the rise of the machines conjures images of post-apocalyptic dystopias, with smarter than human AI and robots replacing us at the top of the intellectual apex of the world. A number of great minds have warned of the potential risks, yet others point to possible utopian outcomes. How can we ensure that automation, AI and robotics create positive outcomes for society? How can we avoid dystopia? What can we all do in our working lives, to ensure we benefit from this transition?