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I recently read a report from McKinsey on automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) and their impact on the future of business.  I also spoke to many engineers and business professionals recently at a meeting on this subject and have been thinking about the political and socioeconomic implications.  


I believe there will be three key future impacts:


1.  JOBS AND SOCIOECONOMIC IMPACT - Although the article offers multiple scenarios on the impact these trends will have on future job growth, I believe there will be two key socioeconomic outcomes.  The first one is that there will be a large number of job dislocations and need for retraining.  This is because more automation and AI means less need for factories and workers.  An example of this is the cashew industry.  Ten years ago, most of the cashew processing and packaging work was done by thousands of manual laborers in India.  Today, this work is being done by a few hundred people in Vietnam in largely automated plants.


Secondly, the current pace of automation will make older workers obsolete unless they keep up with the changes.  Most positions for which companies like BlackRock, the financial planning and investment management firm, are hiring today are targeted to professionals with software, engineering, and data mining degrees and experience.  This is due to the fact that the AI computers BlackRock and other financial firms have recently designed and developed are making most investment decisions.  Thus, the new positions are more geared toward collecting and processing data to feed to the computers.  This also means that traditional financial degrees have become less relevant and people need a "quant" degree to compete effectively in this industry.  Older workers will be less likely to have this background and will have a more difficult time retraining for these positions.


The implications are that retraining and re-educating workers will become crucial.  Despite these efforts, most companies will need to reduce the number of workers and there will be job dislocation.


​2.  IMPACT ON COUNTRIES AND COMPANIES - As per the cashew industry example above, it is difficult to predict where new industries, solutions, and competition will emerge in the future.  The cashew industry is not the only example.  China is now poised to become the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles in the world.  Given that the traditional internal combustion engine auto industry was led by the U.S. in Detroit (e.g., Ford, GM, and Chrysler), one would have expected this city to be the leader in electric vehicles.  Instead, even in the U.S., the EV industry has shifted and is now based in Silicon Valley (e.g., Tesla and Faraday Future).


The implication of this development is that it will become more important to understand emerging trends and which countries/areas are the hotbeds for these.  Companies will need to become more agile in responding to these changes and relocating offices and workers as necessary, as GE has recently done, moving from suburban Connecticut to Boston.


I have been to Singapore many times and it is amazing to see how the government decides what investment needs to be made in emerging industries - and then does it.  It has done this with biotech, internet, and robotics.  Although this approach will be difficult to replicate in many countries (after all, Singapore can be described as a benevolent centralized dictatorship), it is important for countries to become more proactive in their management of AI and automation.  


3.. NEW JOBS WILL EMERGE AND REPLACE THE ONES THAT VANISH - Although the two previous trends I have just mentioned seem pessimistic, there is reason to be optimistic about the future.  


Twenty years ago, many companies and positions that are commonplace did not exist.  Companies such as Amazon, Twitter, Tesla, and many others have emerged only in the past few years.  Likewise, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, and many software engineering and development positions were scarce or did not exist at all.  Yet, today, these and many other positions created by the internet, AI, and automation are important and prevalent.  


Although jobs disappear daily (after all, we do not have many blacksmiths or milk and newspaper delivery jobs today), new industries and positions also are created daily.  


Thus, although the pace of change is accelerating and poses a challenge, the individuals and societies that can adapt to these changes and manage them proactively will survive, and even thrive, in this new world.

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Please do not hesitate to call me at 1 (617) 391-0347 or e-mail me at mariocastaneda@bluesailconsulting.com to give me feedback on this or any other subject.  I always like to hear from clients and readers.  


Also, please don't forget to read my interview with BostonVoyager magazine.  To read it, click here.

 

Please contact us if you want to find out how we can help you and your business to plan and to succeed in a changing world.

 

I look forward to seeing you here in January!

 

Warm Regards,

 

​Mario

Blue Sail Consulting: Business Planning, Innovation, and Execution

Mario's Corner - December 2017.  

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and Their Impact on The Future of Business Planning