The Future of Work – how to succeed in a world of thinking machines?
This was the title of the 67th session of our ME 2.0 Palestinian-Israeli Young Business Leaders Forum, with which we at FNF Jerusalem kicked off the annual program 2020 of our bilateral forum. Next to professional networking opportunities and personal exchange, a rare good in times of total stalemate between Israelis and Palestinian, we offer the young entrepreneurs from both sides of the green line with up to date knowledge about newest trends and developments in the realm of tech innovation and economy in order for them to get prepared for future challenges.
Our session examined how the technological changes and disruptions we currently experience and those, which are just around the corner, impact our society, politics and economics and in particular, what is to be expected with regard to the future of work and what will be the role of humans in a world of thinking machines?
Our guest speaker was Matty Mariansky, an artificial intelligence entrepreneur, former employee of Meekan, lecturer at Bezalel Art College and founder of the "Rise of the machines" (HE: Aliyat HaMechonot) community on Facebook with over 23,000 members dealing with AI, technology and where they meet "life itself".
Matty provided us first with a comprehensive overview over the most crucial technological changes presently taking place, while effectively show casing these new technologies throughout his presentation.
The new sophisticated capacity to track people everywhere and at all times has a serious impact on peoples' privacy and freedoms. Using face recognition technology makes it possible to find almost anyone, everywhere at any time. As in most cases this technology certainly bears positive prospects when thinking of police investigators to be more effective in getting hold of serious and dangerous law offenders; but the coin side is that also autocratic regimes and dictatorships can use this technology to track down and persecute their opposition, likely with a devastating success. In China we already can find a credit system according to which every citizen is a subject of government tracking and receives good or bad credit points according to his or her actions, such as crossing a street in a red-light.
While manipulating the truth is not a new phenomenon of the 21st century but has been applied by those in power throughout human history, present capacities to create fake videos, text, images and even audio has reached dimensions in which it not only becomes extremely difficult but in many cases even impossible anymore to differentiate between true and false information and people have no real orientation anymore with regard to what they can really believe. These new technologies are a fertile ground for demagogues and populists, who have an interest in manipulating public opinion and at the same time cause a growing feeling of uncertainty and confusion..
Disrupting technologies have made our world of today make move faster than ever, leaving people with almost no time to digest deep cutting changes in their lives and adapt to the new reality. In addition the overload of information every single person is exposed to, challenges human cognitive processing in a very essential way.
Being overwhelmed by this overload, human brains are using two main strategies to cope with this new situation:
Apohenia: we try to see patterns from past experiences or patterns of logic that can assist us to understand the new reality. We tend to divide people into groups and understand reality in “black” or “white” and not in different shades of gray. This simplification process is very tempting for populist politicians to portray reality and divide us into “us” and “them” invoking fear and polarizing societies.
The second strategy we use is "outsourcing". By outsourcing we allow other parties to manage our preferences and time management. A good example for this is Amazon that allows us to order almost anything we want and knows how to convince us to buy things we are not even sure we need by sending us products which according to their data analyses might appeal to us. Another example for outsourcing is Facebook itself, which designed an algorithm that knows how to shape our sentiments and subsequently shows us ads that will suit our mood and influence our decision making.
The rapid pace of technology also brings about irreversible changes in the work and employment market, which will require us all to prepare for jobs that still do not exist. Many people that work in traditional industries (such as truck drivers) might lose their jobs. They will have to struggle to adapt and make themselves relevant in the constantly changing job market. Whether in a world, in which thinking machines perform much better than humans, every human being will succeed to make himself relevant for the new demands of the job market is highly questionable. Currently, no one has clear and easy solutions at hand and policy makers meanwhile are limping behind the rapid changes. Some countries put their emphasis on digitalization and reforms in the education systems towards learning about technology and coding. Other countries consider adopting a model of “global income” in which every person in the country receives a basic income covering existential needs irrelevant of whether the person works or not.
Meanwhile, Matty Mariansky recommends us to learn the intermediate lessons, which current developments are teaching us and which translate into four concrete imperatives:
Don’t stay on the couch – once we “stay on the couch” and scroll down the Facebook feed we actually let them decide for us.
Don’t believe everything – beware of fake news and disinformation, especially when politicians are involved or any other interest group.
"Don’t be horses" – remove your blinders and keep a wide view of the world and make sure you will not be replaced by a robot.
Don’t get caught doing one thing – adapt an attitude of a lifelong learning, keep learning new skills and accumulate new knowledge about different sectors and disciplines.