While it is undeniable that technology has changed the very essence of the world we live in, some of these changes have not only been changes for good.
One of the biggest debates currently being discussed in the world is the impact that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the world’s job market. One report suggests that AI will replace 38% of US jobs by 2030. A report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers points out that more than 10 million UK workers are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the automation of routine tasks gathers pace in a new machine age. Again, the magic number of 30% is relevant.
So what would happen if 30% of the jobs in South Africa were replaced within 13 years? We already have unemployment levels of 42%, can we really afford to push it to 72%?
Regulation needs to take centre stage before the effects become too great. And it’s not only the job market that is affected by this.
Left field ball
One of the major shocks in September was the cancellation of Uber’s licence to operate in London. Apparently, the company was being very naughty, and crafty, in dodging regulators by using a technology called Greyball
An article on telegraph.co.uk points out that this was a long time coming and that the world should follow the calls of the World Economic Forum for regulation to keep pace with technological advancements.
According to the Telegraph article, Uber is a business that has been regarded by many as attempting to, if not outgrow, at least outsmart much of the existing regulation that cities’ transport networks are built upon.
Like water looking for the swiftest route of least resistance, the tech firm has sought to find the quickest route to growth, assuming all else will follow. Now, with the removal of its licence, the regulator is just another dam to burst.
However, you interpret its actions, Transport for London (the regulator) is facing exactly the problem highlighted by the Global Competitiveness Report from the World Economic Forum (WEF): the struggle to ensure regulation keeps pace with technological advancement. And if we think Uber’s technological abilities and use of them are a problem, then just wait until we have to tackle self-driving cars.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Margareta Drzeniek-Hanouz, lead economist behind the WEF report asks what kind of insurance ought a self-driving car to have. “If it goes wrong, who’s liable?”
These are the very issues, she argues, that the world and UK economy, should be seeking to answer. That is why the report is a call to arms for business and regulation to keep pace with the technological advancement in order for the global economy to thrive.
“Job losses are expected as technology transforms manufacturing and services in the coming years raising questions about how quickly new jobs will be created, and about the future of economic development models based on exporting labour-intensive manufacturing products,” warns the report.
The job losses the report points to come with two problems; how to make globalisation inclusive, and how best to embrace the fourth industrial revolution.
Knowing your ABCs: Technology and Education
In the past, we have gone into the issue of technology and education. Does technology have the ability to educate a child at the same level as a teacher? Does it have the ability to improve a child’s education?
An article on spectator.org points out that the debate around this in the US is getting very vigorous.
The article points out that educational technology (ed-tech) companies are trumpeting how innovative and engaging their products are and that they are perfect for efficiently training the 21st-century drones needed by the global economy. Buy our digital devices for your students, they urge, and we’ll throw in the apps for free! Act now! Don’t be left behind!
But the article adds that a measure of caution is needed here. University of Colorado researchers recently released a report analysing the myriad problems with personalized learning schemes. Every legislator, education professional, and parent should read the report and slam on the brakes.
The report examines how ed-tech companies are flooding schools with untested and unvalidated products, targeting children with sophisticated marketing and urging or requiring schools to effectively funnel children into a ‘surveillance economy’ that harvests their data for profit. In short, students’ privacy is being obliterated and their education warped.
The article adds that the report explains how education technology intensifies corporate marketing by creating consumer profiles on students. The enormous amounts of data collected as students interface with the software constitute data gold. Even the few states that limit sale of this information allow its transfer during acquisitions and bankruptcies — everyday events in the technology world.
It is undeniable that technology will play a greater role in education in the future. But the point made regarding the protection of private information is a valid one. We need to see a similar level of protection when it comes to data that children generate than we do to the data that adults generate. Perhaps even more so if we take into account the vulnerabilities that surround children. Lawmakers and regulators need to take this into account when drafting legislation.
Food for the soul
We need to go off on a tangent here. But please bear with me. Global warming is changing the nature of the world. Countries all over the world are experiencing the worst droughts that they have ever seen and are struggling to come to terms with the fact that the old methods of farming are not going to be successful in the future.
This is where technology has a role to play. However, a report on radionz.co.nz shows that regulation is needed.
Plant and Food Research chief operating officer Dr Bruce Campbell at Te Hono Stanford University said the message from the US was clear.
“There’s quite significant disruption coming for the food sector. In fact, one of the interesting predictions was that eight of the ten biggest food and agricultural companies in the US could disappear in the next decade because of the pace of change and the pace of innovation.”
The article points out that Dr Campbell added that there was a lot of new technology from Silicon Valley and Europe that was going to change the game for food production in the future.
“Not the least of those is a big change to towards plant based foods and people wanting much more diversity in their diets – I think that creates a big opportunity for horticulture in New Zealand.”
He said companies need to keep up and innovation needs to accelerate.
“The opportunity is there for big companies that are embracing innovation and investing in new ways of doing things.”
Dr Campbell said there were a number of opportunities for other food businesses to get more out of the global market, and while it was easy to say that New Zealand was small and insignificant, this country still had a world class reputation.
“It’s a real opportunity for us to build on. The future will require us to be much more connected internationally.
“There will be much more of a global innovation system and we’ve been exploring much stronger connections with the likes of Silicon Valley, the food valley in the Netherlands … as examples to position New Zealand for the real premium end of the food market where we can do best.”
With technology comes change. And with change comes uncertainty. Can we afford to let this change occur without implementing some measure of control? We need to take a step forward and not be left behind.