Our thinking

Algorithms are easy to copy...

...but human behaviours are not! Wherever one looks, the news is full of AI and automation. People are talking about jobs under threat, about a new type of industrial revolution that is boiling around us. Even government ministers, when they have a moment not distracted by Brexit, will start talking about the threats of AI, whist ebullient videos shared in social media rave about the amazing capabilities that are being unleashed on the world.

 

It is easy to think that technology destroys jobs. When we are yet again confronted with a radical, scary new technology, it’s easy to feel sympathy with the luddites and their desire to destroy technology to save their livelihoods! But all the evidence appears to be that new technology generates new jobs. And it doesn’t just generate new jobs, it generates new types of jobs, types of jobs that require more human input.

Since 1870, the percentage of people employed in ‘muscle power work’ has declined from 23.7% to 8.3%. Whilst the percentage of people employed in ‘caring professions’ (such as health, teaching, care) has risen from 1.1% to 12.2%. Technology creates new types of human-centred opportunities. Looking over the last century there is a simple relationship - the more we can get machines to replace the dull, repetitive jobs, then the more we invent jobs that are less machine-like. Machines actually allow us to be more human!

In this there is, I believe, an important lesson for our business planning. The algorithms will arrive, and they will replace dull and repetitive aspects of our jobs. But this will not result in a collapse of employment, it will result in a plethora of new types of roles that allow us to take advantage of that new freedom. And whilst algorithms are endlessly copyable, it’s not so easy to copy the right people! The more tech we have, the more people will dominate the business.

In the new world that is arriving now, the AI will be the given, the USP will be the people. Now is the time to invest in that future.

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