COVID-19 demonstrates what is AI going to do to our jobs. Soon. What are the 5 key lessons learned?

By Pavel Konečný, CEO & Co-Founder of Neuron soundware.

COVID-19 makes more than 30 million people unemployed just in the US within weeks. That’s about 20% of US jobs. Artificial intelligence (AI) might be as significant as COVID. 

Yet, there is a key difference between COVID and AI. Most of the jobs lost due to COVID might come back after the quarantine restrictions are released. That will not be the case of AI. The average expectation is that about 35% of jobs would be replaced by AI software within the next 10 years.

You can check the probability of replacing your occupation at this fancy website. For example, self-driving vehicles are getting closer and closer to reality. And about 10 million people could lose their jobs just due to truck-self driving. Today’s simple web chatbots will suit-up the robotic bodies and will be helping in all fields including hospitals.

COVID-19 has forced us into the future. Now is the right time to re-think some of the key concepts of how our society works.

1. Digitalization of all Government processes 

Digitalization would allow streamlining the adoption of our society. It is not only about the US top headlines about collapsing IT systems for unemployment registration. As a citizen of the Czech Republic, I recently got a fresh new ID card with a digital identity. However, it was useless when my driving license expired last week. I had to go to the administration office in person. I asked why I could not use my digital ID. The answer was shocking. The driver’s signature is a mandatory field. No obvious reason except for it is a legal requirement.

Why even bother with the second government-issued ID? Police could just use a finger scanner and pull-out my license details via the internet.

2. Universal Healthcare and Open-Medicine inevitable 

Cheaper and more efficient healthcare for everybody as a people’s right would be necessary. All developed countries except for US do have a Universal healthcare system. Just compare the story of US governers overbidding to buy ventilators from federal reserve with Corovent project. Corovent is an open-source ventilator developed within weeks by a team of experts from Czech universities. The first 500 units for hospitals were crowdfunded within 24hours! The cost is about 20% of the equally equipped ventilator. Now, they are manufacturing thousands of orders from all over the world. That is not the only open-source project helping. The famous Prusa3D has designed and 3d-printed more than 80.000 shields and distributed them for free to medical personal. Now is the time to make medicine more digital and open-source.

If you agree that it is madness to try to make a profit during the pandemic. Why should somebody profit from your health any other time? 

3. Automation of all Essential Services and Manufacturing

Globalization shows that people as workers are less reliable than ever before. Anybody could be sick or be in quarantine for weeks. However essential industries such as energy, utility, petrochemical need to keep the lights on. So a higher level of automation in factories and warehouses would be required. This trend will need to accelerate even before smart robots come into place. It is not just about automating production lines, but also remote monitoring. However, machines can get sick too. Here is where IoT solutions and Industry 4.0 concept of digital twins would play a major role.

All that would allow providing essential services for a fraction of today’s cost or practically free. 

4. Rationalization of the School curriculum

Hundreds of millions of parents are now home with their kids. Working through their homework and school plans. I am sure that I am not the only one, who is questioning the school learning process. A lot of the time children spend on memorizing one topic after another like in the world without the internet. Kids are just using books and notebooks. I am firstly looking for an educational video on Youtube, in case I want to understand some new concept. An old saying says that a picture is worth a 1.000 words. And 10 minutes video is 18.000 pictures. Not mentioning AI assistants, which will be able to advise and help us in seconds. The whole education system needs a deep revision. Just give kids an interesting task, tablet with the internet, and let them explore the World.

We should teach children how to solve problems instead of memorizing stuff. The key ability will be the art of combining knowledge from many different fields. 

5. Job Scarcity is coming

In most countries, there is a minimum income guaranteed. Even US distributed 1000 USD checks to everybody. Monetary tools allow the short-term economic stimulus to boost-up the demand. That would help to overcome the impact of the pandemic. However, this is not efficient in the longterm as AI technology will not disappear. Owners of AI would prosper, while others not so much. New streams and jobs on how to distribute the wealth would be invented. That might take many years as new services will be supported by superior AI. More profound measures such as universal basic income, 4-days working week, taxation of robots or computing hours would be needed.

What can be automated, should be automated now. That will flatten the unemployment curve of AI flooding the World!

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