Sometimes things sit in plain sight and we completely overlook them. This is true of trends in the world that seem to arrive suddenly but were a long time in coming. We are all poised at that moment in time. It is right under our nose–the early phases of the end of capitalism as we know it. It is not walking out the door all at once but it is definitely getting dressed to leave.
We have entered the next phase of human endeavors, the age of access. I have been calling it the shared economy but it is much more than that. Not only will be sharing but we will not be working as we do now. For the first time since we left our “swinging- from- the -trees days”, human labor will be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotic assistants. Even jobs that seem impossible to replace by artificial intelligence will be replaced by it. You’ll even be able to communicate in foreign languages using your smart phone even though you do not know the other’s language. MOOC’s or Massive Open Online Courses will expand and eliminate the need for brick and mortar colleges and the high costs of going to universities.
Retail stores will continue to shrink as people expand their online shopping. They now are trying to retain customers by allowing them to order online and pick up at the store. This is only a stop-gap measure and won’t save the brick and mortar store. Department stores will become a memory. We will be creating our own electricity and sharing the excess. No longer will we be tied to one big power utility company. Our production costs will also be lowered as we enter into the world of 3D printing for our manufacturing. What will happen is that productivity will become so efficient as to eliminate the need for ever higher prices. Profits will wane as goods and services are produced at extremely small costs. The standard advertising budget will not be necessary as many of the services it now provides can be created using artificial intelligence and the internet.
Airlines, cars, trains, buses, ships, planes will all be made “smart” eliminating a human to steer them. There is almost no industry that cannot benefit from artificial intelligence–especially the medical profession, the banking profession, the financial profession (why will you need a broker or an adviser?) even talk therapy. We cannot see it yet but we can sense it coming. We watch the old guard hang on to the present structure but you know that it cannot last. There will be a hard fought fight to keep the status quo but it cannot win. It will take some time for these changes to be part of our every day world but just look back 10 years and see what we had then. Just imagine going out 20 to 30 years and you can understand the massive change that will become every day. Just by banks making loans difficult to obtain by small businesses and individuals, new ways of financing are cropping up. People are creating lending groups among themselves and crowd funding has skyrocketed. Even a dog raised a few thousand dollars for itself.
Airbnb is wounding the hotel industry, car sharing is removing the old structure of taxis and buses. Drones are now spraying crops for the farmers, sensors are being attached or implanted into the body to monitor all types of information. How about security systems? Automated farm harvesting?
Pay attention to the continual change taking place across the world. Notice how old structures of the economy from the unions to the bosses are struggling to maintain. They know their time in the saddle is short. Will we see all this right away? No! But will we see it and more within 30 years? Absolutely! You are witness to the transformational years. They are extremely uncertain and can be scary but they are exciting. They will give us more free time to help, serve, cooperate and live a more balanced life. The biggest fear for most people is being without income. That too, will be created. Even new ways of creating currencies is on the horizon. Stay tuned and stay optimistic. We need to make these changes. I have planned my smart car and my robot to take care of mundane chores. Maybe walk the dog? How about defrosting the fish? Remember, films are intended to be way-showers of what is coming and what our culture is doing? Pay attention. Remember the film “Artificial Intelligence”, the “Matrix”, the “6th sense”, “Transcendence”, “Conception”, “Robot & Frank”. Just give it time!
It seems impossible to imagine a world where less capital will be needed to produce goods and services but we are already doing it. Look back 25 years and see if you could even imagine an item such as a smartphone. Items grow exponentially not linearly.
The first wave of change affected music, film, television and communications. It is marching across all industries. Artificial intelligence will do programming and replace many of today’s software engineering jobs. .
We will always need the human touch but human labor will be replaced by intelligent or smart services. We already have smart meters for our electric usage. Eventually no more meter readers. It will affect more and more industries. No area of today’s society is spared. The positive outcome for this trend is enormous. Yes. Many middle management jobs will be eliminated along with labor. The focus now to be considered by government is what systems need to be implemented to work with these changes.
Can you say “disintermediation?” The middle men and women are being replaced by direct to consumer in many markets. Not sure it means the end of capitalism but certainly less of a role for a broker. Won’t capital still control the means of production, won’t the rich will still get richer? And as good as robots may become, there will still be a vital place for human touch.
Gail, Thank you for being so graphic! I. for one, see all this as here. I’m trying my best to be apart of it . Can’t wait for the Robot to clean the house in a detailed way!
Excellent article Gail. As a trainee talking therapist I better brush up on my A.I.