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  • Writer's pictureChristoph Burkhardt

From #GIG to AI economies

Updated: Sep 2, 2019

Get ready for a massive economic shift triggered by the developments that first allowed the #crowdsourcing of tasks and now allow for full #automation powered by #Artificial Intelligence.

While the gig economy relies on platforms to coordinate increasingly large groups of people in ever more sophisticated tasks, the approaching AI economy relies on humans to understand the bigger picture in order to complement ht machines that without a doubt will soon take over much of the tedious tasks in our everyday work.

When an Uber or Lyft driver picks me up and drops me off, a pretty smart platform coordinates data of my user profile, the GPS of the driver and me, the traffic situation on the way to where I need to go and my credit card data to seamlessly charge me when I leave the car without me doing anything. The gig of driving me is only possible because there is massive computing power behind everything we do not see when we get in the car of a stranger. The driver and user ratings, the matching algorithms, the predictive analytics and the pricing algorithms are invisible to me and the driver. Yet we both rely on them to function properly in the background to make this gig work.

The economic shift that will be caused by AI entering the field of task coordination is much bigger than most people anticipate. With up to 50 % of tasks to be replaced by smart machines and robotic automation we are facing not a coordination problem but an economic problem of talent. If you have the skillset to double your productivity when all the repetitive tasks have been eliminated from your daily list of projects you will be fine. If though - and I believe this is true for more than 30% of the workforce in the Western world - you would not know how to live up to the pressure to out of a sudden perform at twice the level in all tasks a machine can not do we are in trouble.

Are you amazing at using Excel, you know all the tricks and shortcuts, in fact you are so good that you regularly get asked to work on Excel functions across different projects then your skill and expertise will no longer justify your salary once a smart machine outsmarts you in the use of Excel. And trust me they will outsmart us in it. So what are you going to do?

Organizations and politicians are absolutely unprepared for the shift this is going to cause. We will have knowledge workers of all sorts, highly skilled and professionally needed, well trained and integrated into organizations, hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of them without any justification to remain on the payroll. What happened when we introduced robotics to manufacturing and assembly lines across the planet is going to happen to skilled knowledge workers now with automation driven by Artificial Intelligence. From machine learning to unsupervised deep learning, natural language processing and convolutional neural networks we will see an incredibly powerful new coworker by our side at all times who will make us question what we are actually good at.

Organizations and society in general will have to answer the question what makes a human a valuable human being. No longer can we base this answer on the economic contribution that individuals bring to the table. The answer has to be centered around the challenge of progress not the question of growth. Humans will have to redefine their skills and purpose if they want to be part of the new hyper-productive human-machine workforce. Until then we need to ask ourselves what of the tasks we perform every day could be augmented and how we would expand the uniquely human capabilities each of us could bring to the mix.


Read more about the rise of smart machines and how they fundamentally change how we live and work. To get ready for the Age of AI check out Christoph Burkhardt’s new book “Don’t Be a Robot - Seven Survival Strategies in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.

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