Experts are divided in predicting the future of work and living by 2030. They agree that artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), among other technologies, will have profound effects. However, often they fail to agree about their effects. Although technology fuels the change, they themselves cannot unfold transformation. In fact, they need to drive the creative wave of destructions, subsequently offering better substitutions. As opposed to technologies, creative waves of destruction will shape the future of work and living. Hence, we should focus on likely creative waves of destruction shaping the future.
As the likely transformation is phenomenal, reaching an agreement about the future highly matters. The likely unfolding scenario will have a profound effect on individuals, families, firms, and countries. In addition to 800 million job loss predictions by 2030, experts are also predicting, “85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t been invented yet.” Job loss & creation, and the change in knowledge and skill to qualify for new jobs depend on the changes in products and processes to produce and consume them. In order to have profound effects, creative waves of destruction should unfold by 2030. Often it takes more than a decade for a creative wave to unfold. However, are you observing the uprising of such waves? What would be the likely time frame for their unfolding? Are there so many such waves that will offer substitutions to more than 50 percent of products we use today?
Of course, our partnerships with machines will keep getting more intense as exponential increases in data, processing power and connectivity keep opening possibilities. In order to have some insights, we should dig deeper. In the absence of theories, gut feelings alone are not sufficient to offer us reasonable prediction accuracy.
Creative waves of destruction have been shaping living, work, jobs, skills, and knowledge
In a market economy, profit-making competition is chasing ideas for offering us better products to get our job done better. These products are at the core of shaping our work and living. Many of these products are going through incremental changes. Such incremental changes do not create a profound effect. For example, computers, televisions, or automobiles have been going through incremental advancement over the last three decades.
Of course, incremental advancement is also followed by process advancement. For example, along with the addition of new features and improvement of existing ones, automobile makers are also improving production processes. Such process advancement is often leading to the delegation of certain tasks to robots. According to IFR, we have roughly 3 million operational robots. Of course, on average, each of those robots has taken over six jobs. On the other hand, the addition of new features to products is also creating labor demand.
Change of technology core of products leads to the journey of substitution. In order to have a profound effect, we need creative waves to offer substitutions to existing products. This substation effect will have a transformational effect on work and living.
Historical Examples of creatives wave of destruction shaping future
Over the last 130 years, a number of major products have experienced a change in technology core. The commonly cited one is the automobile. The journey started with the issuance of the patent to Carl Benz in 1886. The change of horse with an internal combustion engine started a creative wave of destruction. By 1920, this wave fully grew and unfolded, having a profound effect. Similarly, the technology core lighting was changed by electricity and carbon filament. Subsequently, the technology core of the light bulb was changed by a fluorescent effect, and finally with LED. This change in technology’s core unfolded a creative wave of destruction. Consequentially, knowledge and skill requirements in producing light bulbs also changed.
During the 2nd half of the 20th century, we observed change in the technology core of a number of products. For example, an electronic image sensor fueled the creative weave of destruction in Camera. Similarly, computer printers experienced a change in technology core. The emergence of PC-based word processors is a remarkable creative wave of destruction to both the typewriter industry and the jobs of typists. Among others, PC, Internet, and software applications have contributed a few major creative waves. For instance, e-mail and document attached features have caused destruction to postal service, fax, and telex. To predict the unfolding creative waves of destruction shaping the future, we should look into technology core and some examples.
Technology core to fuel emerging creative waves of destruction shaping the future
Often cited technology cores are AI, IoT, and Robotics. AI in the age of 4IR focuses on imitating human-like intelligence in physical systems. As a result, physical systems, upon being cyber-physical ones, will be able to operate by themselves. The innovation proposition is that without having a human in the loop, machines would be better than before. IoT will be producing an enormous amount of data. Upon the analyses of these data, algorithms will be able to understand the situation, predict the likely future state, make decisions, and execute them autonomously. Robots are basically cyber-physical systems.
Here are two issues we should look into to assess their implications on our lives and work. The first one is about how far it is feasible technologically. And the other one is about how much time creative waves of destruction around these technologies will unfold. Of course, IoT-provided data will offer us far greater intelligence from the field. Despite the usefulness, in many cases, this intelligence will not be sufficient to replace human’s innate abilities in decision making. As a result, in many cases, waves of substitutions requiring innate abilities will not unfold to cause destruction to existing products, and jobs.
On the other hand, it appears that many of the potential waves will require several decades to unfold. As a result, by 2030, highly likely, not much change we will experience. Furthermore, new kinds of jobs will require mostly innate abilities, as codified knowledge and skill are highly amenable to automation.
The uprising of Electrical Vehicle as Creative Wave of destruction
Over the last two decades, the creative wave of electric vehicles (EV) is growing. Despite the potential, EV needs to go a long way to be better and cheaper than gasoline-powered automobiles. The technology core is the battery. Already, the lithium-ion battery is showing signs of saturation in progression. It’s not clear that by 2030, EV will be a strong substitute for Gasoline vehicles. If EV emerges as a better substitute, certainly we will observe the profound change in making, refueling, and maintaining automobiles. However, this transformation will demand far fewer skills and knowledge as automation will be performing most of the tasks.
Autonomous vehicles on the slow lane and Premature death of ASIMO
We were anticipating that the autonomous vehicle will be the first massive wave of destruction. However, upon the investment of $80 billion in R & D, researchers are stuck as memorization-based AI technique has reached saturation. Imitation of human-like innate ability has been a major barrier to AI. Hence, it’s fair to say that this current AI technology core will not offer enough momentum for autonomous vehicles to unfold as creative waves of destruction. AI community needs to upgrade the underlying science. It happens to be that machine learning science has remained unchanged over the last four decades. Therefore, major waves of substitution around AI as cyber-physical systems will unlikely unfold by 2030.
Future prediction experts got a major blow from the premature ending of the life cycle of Honda’s ASIMO. Upon working on this wonderful humanoid robot for 32 years, the Honda R&D team failed to imitate human-like innate abilities in ASIMO. Consequentially, ASIMO failed to qualify for elderly care jobs. Subsequently, Honda management stopped further R&D on ASIMO in 2018. Among other limitations, our progress in developing human-like robot hands over the last 300 years is extremely slow. State-of-the-art robot hand is one of the major barriers for Humanoid robots to take over many service jobs from humans. Hence, it’s not unfair to predict that humanoid robots will not unfold as a major wave causing destruction to jobs and our existing way of doing things within the next two decades.
Challenges in predicting likely creative waves of destruction shaping the future of work and living
The unfolding of creative waves of destruction causes profound effects on work and living. Competition forces shape such waves. There are multiple theories and terminologies in examining it. On the other hand, mainstream economists term it as a residual effect. In the absence of a comprehensive unified theory, combining relevant concepts, we do not have much clarity about the underlying dynamics of such waves. Furthermore, they need a robust technology core. It seems that existing AI, IoT, and Robotics are not offering us a strong technology core for imitating human-like intelligence. On the other hand, there has been intense hype about change. Hence, inadequate theories, weak technology core, and hype have likely created high-level errors in our prediction ability about the unfolding future. Given the prospect of an unprecedented transformational effect on human progress, prediction error in the unfolding future runs the risk of falling behind.