Robots and AI are all the rage these days, consistently in the tech news headlines seemingly every day. The articles constantly debate whether automation will actually create ‘more’ jobs -or- eliminate jobs as we know it. Driving even more controversy is the stat predicting that- ”more than a third of U.S. jobs could be at ‘high risk’ of automation by the early 2030s” (USA Today).
A few industries that could be massively affected by automation are Transportation, Manufacturing and Financial. With self-driving cars predicted to be noticeable on the roads by 2020, and in the vast majority by 2040- this so-called ‘train has left the station’. Predictions that support the Transportation industry are almost hard to believe- with predictions of 80-100% of heavy trucking jobs becoming automated once self-driving trucks take full effect. Transportation is one of the largest industries in the U.S., with approximately 16% of total occupational employment in the country, so the effects could be devastating.
In terms of Manufacturing, 38% of factory jobs in the U.S. are at high risk of being replaced by robots and artificial intelligence over the next 15 years, according to a PwC report. One of the most extreme examples is the Changying Precision Technology Company in China, that has set up a factory run almost exclusively run by robots- to the point of reducing their 650 employees down to 60, and potentially dropping to as low as just 20 employees in the short-term.
And the Financial industry is automating in several different ways- including hundreds of financial analysts being replaced with software or robo-advisors. But the company that really sticks out is Deep Knowledge Ventures- a Hong Kong-based life science venture capital company. Deep Knowledge Ventures has already appointed an AI robot to its board of directors. The robot, called “Vital” (Validating Investment Tool for Advancing Life Sciences) analyzes trends using specific company data to try and predict successful investments. Vital is an equal board member, and viewed as a valuable addition to the board based on its ability to automate due diligence and use complex datasets to uncover trends that aren’t immediately obvious to humans and their limited mental capacity.
So, let’s put it all together… several industries will be affected and optimized by automation and AI technology. Industries like transportation could be almost completely void of humans, with the advent of self-driving cars. Manufacturing companies are shrinking their human workforce from 650 to 20, and beyond. Financial companies are assigning AI algorithms to their Board of Directors.
This begs the question- could there ever be a company ever completely be run by Robots and AI? Let’s take a manufacturing company as an example, given they’re some of the farthest along in the technology evolution spectrum. We know that automating factory jobs by robots can be highly effective. The previously mentioned Changying Precision Technology Company experienced a 250% increase in productivity and 80% drop in defects. From an executive level- top officers are already relying on an increasing amount of data and analytics to make decisions- so why not let the data itself make unbiased decisions instead of people?
Let’s break it down even further at the department level. In terms of the Accounting Department- per Forbes, “all of those menial, time-consuming (accounting) tasks that used to eat up hours of a day will be gone… Bots are now able to determine and categorize all information into different accounts by themselves, which means artificial intelligence is already delivering solo performances in the field… Machine learning is also observable since these bots can learn from various human input to make better judgments and to adapt to accounting professionals’ behavior patterns.”
Automating the Marketing Department has been rapidly percolating throughout business for the past decade. Marketing Automation utilizes technology to produce automated campaigns across Email, Web, Social, Mobile and Ads- that are completely personalized to each customer being marketed to at the individual level. These can be executed to serve up the right message at the right time to the right person. Look at what NetFlix, Amazon and Spotify have already done- the new bar has been set.
And in Human Resources, AI can automate the process of sifting through resumes, to match candidate data to ideal candidate characteristics. And the list goes on…
Getting back to the bigger question at hand- let me settle the score:
There are companies that exist without humans today.
In May 2016, a project with no mainstream press became the second biggest crowdfunding project in history. It crowdfunded a corporation called “The DAO.” This is a corporation whose bylaws are written entirely in code, and given its authority purely through code. The DAO is a decentralized autonomous organization, and soon after it came to existence- controlled more than $100 million in assets, yet it exists entirely on the Ethereum blockchain.
I’m not here to defend robots, AI and code taking over the majority of jobs, but I do think it’s an interesting exercise to ‘play out’, and see how far it can go…
So what do you think of the concept… Can companies be 100% run by Robots and AI? And if they are, then what???