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Criss-Crossing AI With the Future of Work

Every few years; some self-proclaimed academic imparts an article on the future of work, with conflicting information from various experts leaving many uncertain about its impact on jobs, skills, and wages. In less than a year, these same scholars will be writing about the “future of labor,” and given the speed of innovation, by the time these articles are published, they will be made obsolete.

Based on the research recently conducted by the newly formed Stanford Digital Economy Lab, before the pandemic, in early March, remote workers represented 15% of the workforce in enterprise-level organizations. Now that number is well over 50%, and the trajectory is steepening daily as we record higher levels of infections. In this article, we will attempt to build on our current understanding of the future of work and to identify potential challenges that could arise for different demographic groups.

Dropbox was the first major digitized company to announce a remote-first work environment for all of its employees. This announcement supersedes other major digitally native organizations who are pondering what a fully remote work environment might entail and how best to consider the safest ways to bring employees back to office spaces.

By creating these vast clusters of remote work environments, everyday private experiences will produce a more efficient and effective way of working. We have found that this seamless working model is continuously expanding, accelerating the application of knowledge in all sectors and creating a world of unprecedented opportunities. It is also forever widening the divide from wealthy digitally centric organizations from lower-level task labor-intensive groups/organizations. These new ways of working have crisscrossed the world of artificial intelligence, and some critics privately predict that artificial intelligence will not only destroy jobs, but will also make them more efficient, productive, and useful.

Full Digitization and an Online Education Reward System

Digitization has three essential properties: it is free, which means that there are literally zero marginal costs. It is perfect, i.e., replicas can be transmitted through digitization, and finally, they are instant through their transmission. These properties are the foundations of AI, which is now viewed as a universal technology.

Given this proclamation, some economists believe that a new economic blueprint will be imperative for measuring GDP. Digitization is not a new paradigm, but we must confront the substantial economic imbalances that co-exist in highly digitized organizations on the margins of society.

There is no economic law that guarantees that everyone will benefit from a fully digitized economy. While evidence of vastly more wealth and better health are co-existing harmoniously in some regions of the US, not everyone is advancing proportionally. Up until the turn of the century, the past 200 years or so, living standards in the US rose across the board, much like they do now in China. This is mainly due to a university system that only caters to the wealthy, even in public domains. It is important to note, however, that robust efforts in online education over the past several quarters have helped reduce that disparity a little. Further, formal teaching is no longer a requirement for digitally native higher-income job descriptions.

What is required from online academic certificates is a rewards system that guarantees a student an interview at a digitized company or a job offer after completing a subset or full course work successfully. This type of reward system would have an enormous impact on lower-income wage earners who have recently been displaced from front-line jobs and want to upskill to keep up with the pace of change. This will provide a dopamine effect that every digitally native citizen craves. Currently, through social media, we have an archaic credentialing system that says, “no, I didn’t get my degree from Harvard, but these 5 Microsoft engineers say I’m qualified for the job based on my skillset.” What must be expressed is a type of nano-degree credentialled system that would determine a person’s qualification, but more oversee immediate results from the earned credential.

Another far-fetched idea is having the online credentialing entity form of digital payment reward for each skill acquired, much like we pay people to take surveys. It would propel the online learning industry, attract more students to earn the skillsets required to attract hiring paying jobs. By “paying” students to upskill creates a massive back-wind for specific demographics.

In most major Ivy League Universities, Computer Science is still the number one primary here in the US, so we continue to see the smartest people enter and anchor the digital workforce to become digitally native leaders. This is not so true, among the different demographic groups even with the same level of experience through online education. To adequately prepare our most vulnerable workers for a future without work, the inequalities, power imbalances, and market failures that are holding them back from today’s prosperity must be addressed. An online education reward system may help.

Forces at Work

The first force at work is Substitution: Humans are routinely being substituted for machines. Robots are replacing humans quickly and in most front-line industries. Most of the jobs that are being returned are lower-paying repetitive task-oriented jobs like cashiers. For roles that primarily execute in-place processes, there is often no clear outcome to the upside to reward people. Instead, those employees are measured against “error rates” and tasks per time unit, because that is what they have control over. However, soon, these machines will also replace workers in more hazardous work environments as well. In such danger zones, robots can act as human firefighters on the front lines of a life-threatening blaze. The same can be said, for utility workers replacing faulty power lines or the tricky nature of the profession of a commercial airline pilot—pandemic notwithstanding. There are many other industries including but not limited to medical imaging analysis occupations like CT and MRI technicians along with radiologists.

China’s Economic Zones & The Dial Tone of the Future

China is accelerating its university infrastructure for innovation and AI development. Most of the AI citations are coming from these industrious economic zones and university enclaves. While not yet comparable US Universities, we are learning that these economic zones are deep learning developer communities that experiment with the latest technologies. These active nodes/zones/communities are pitted against each other and compete. The nodes that effectively produce better results are rewarded, and the experiment goes live to the general population in that specific area.

Consider WeChat, a Tencent company based in China. It is considered the “dial tone” of China. Its origin started as a social media messaging platform that morphed its way into digital payments. It amplified itself by setting up multiple developer nodes across a vast region that worked against each other. Nevertheless, WeChat has done something extraordinarily well, and that it locked in 700M users to be the payment gateway for China.

As these economic zones grow based on the successful AI implementations, the US has begun to ask pertinent questions. Why and How is the velocity of Chinese AI citations so robust? How can the US keep pace? Once again, I refer to the massive population of China, which is 4.5x the size of the US. A significant portion of these populations acts as the technological army that forms these massive networks to adapt and pioneer innovation. They literally can achieve more technologically just based on the enormous community and network buildups through these cluster zones.

Over the last ten years, we have routinely been talking to our machines, first through desktop and now our phones. It took a while, but devices are finally becoming intelligent. Our children will probably never visit a website. Given the speed of innovation, I believe websites and clunky landing page user experiences, to waiting for a confirmation email to register or buy something is merely going to end. We all will have a super-intelligent personal AI assistant that speaks to us regularly and have a conversation with. By asking more specific questions, we ultimately will get what we want through this powerful AI. You will notice intelligent chatbots for research specific items, academics, or to shop. Once again, the dopamine effect is in place. It is the instant gratification from immediate responses through our personal AI assistant. Digital payments made through conversational commerce engine of the digital assistant conducted through a chatbot or voice will be the norm, and a transactional receipt will be stored in your repository of choice. So think about it, probably a few websites to visit, academic research maybe, but the human device of choice will be your personal AI assistant.

By Fred Tabsharani, Founder and CEO at Loxz Digital Group

Fred Tabsharani is Founder and CEO of Loxz Digital Group, A Machine Learning Collective with an 18 member team. He has spent the last 15 years as a globally recognized digital growth leader. He holds an MBA from John F. Kennedy University and has added five AI/ML certifications, two from the UC Berkeley (SOI) Google, and two from IBM. Fred is a 10 year veteran of M3AAWG and an Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Olympic Basketball Champion.

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