On Monday 13th November 2017 Angelique Mohring, CEO of Gain X provided a captivating talk on the future of work in the context of AI. She was hosted by the Oxford Technology and Media Network at Oxford’s brilliant Story Museum.

Angelique told us we can expect the world of work to change in three waves over the coming few decades, and possibly sooner:

  1. In the first wave, ‘repeatable’ jobs will be replaced. These are not just ‘blue collar’ roles – for example, UBS, a Swiss bank, recently announced it could replace 30% of its workforce with advanced technologies.
  2. Next, creative and strategic roles will be replaced. There are lots of companies like GainX’s platform, looking at how to eat up these roles with AI.
  3. In the third wave, automation will be replaced by more sophisticated automation.

She forecasts that 50 million people will be made permanently redundant somewhere between the second and third waves.

Given this massive change in the work landscape, Angelique talked about three fundamental human needs that need to be considered: safety, belonging, and mattering.

This opened up the discussion to the floor and a few topics were discussed:

  • Universal income was debated as a possible part of the solution if there are to be far fewer jobs than people to do them.
  • The probability that new jobs will be created, much as they were as a consequence of massive industrial changes when printing, electricity, internal combustion engines and the internet came along. For example, new ways of dealing with climate change will need massive infrastructure development, and that could create plenty of jobs. Businesses offering AI & Machine Learning will also be very profitable.
  • Issues around people evaluating their self-worth from the job that they do. What social issues will this produce?
  • Angelique’s opinion was that the days of conventional, recognisable jobs are numbered and that increasingly, people will work in ‘the gig economy’, transacting on on the blockchain. The blockchain is a new way of paying for goods and services; for more on it check out this excellent TedX talk.

The talk closed with two points to take away:

1. What do I tell my children about the jobs they’re likely to be doing?

  • Chose what you enjoy and be a critical thinker
  • Understand where you fit in ‘the network’
    • Facebook owns the social network
    • Google owns the consumer network

2. What could slow down the uptake of AI?

  • Regulatory issues – there are a lot of tasks that could currently be done by AI, but are currently not. Angelique gave us an example of say a system that can detect whether you are about to have a heart attack, and can take preventative action. Sounds like a great idea except when you consider that if your heart gets restarted whilst you are driving, you could lose concentration and cause a car crash.
  • Access to global talent
  • Poor algorithms tend to amplify natural biases. For example, some AI-powered recruitment apps have been found to have a gender, ethnicity or socio-economic bias.