Several prominent technologists have recently spoken about how automation and artificial intelligence is rapidly displacing the workforce across the United States. They speak the truth. Thomas Friedman, a prominent journalist, discusses the stages of technology and how they have impacted and reshaped society throughout history. These stages are the primary focus of this writing.
How Tech is Re-shaping Society
Technological changes have altered the world in three specific steps: the first one being the change from mainframe to PC. This change was followed by connectivity, which increased the breadth and speed of data exchanges. The third step is the advent of AI, which began as far back as 2007 and continues onward today with additional improvements and capabilities. We will be discussing these steps at length to provide context on what changed and their impacts on society.
Stage 1: Computing
The transformation of mainframe computers to desktop tower PCs and laptops began a tech shift that would lead to where we are today. This stage began a chain reaction in subsequent years where computer networks that were originally limited in connectivity due to terrestrial connections. These connections expanded further to the point where administrators discovered limitations at the physical data centers where they were constantly reaching maximum capacity. Corporations took note of this and slowly began the migration to the cloud. These advancements introduced a multitude of technologies that advanced the computing world, including large capacity storage, solid-state drives, smartphones that operate as miniature computers, and other innovations that changed the market.
Smartphones, in particular, give people opportunities to do many things that were previously not possible with phones in the past. Essentially a miniature computer, just by touching a few buttons, you can get transportation via Uber or have food delivered to you via DoorDash. These apps have expanded the reach of businesses to their customer base, while gradually displacing workers in other industry areas such as the taxi industry.
Stage 2: Connectivity
In 2007, Thomas Friedman wrote a book called “The World is Flat.” It discusses three specific forces: the market, globalization, and technology and explains how these forces have changed society and the world. In his own words, he mentions how tech has enabled people to touch in ways that were possible before in past eras. The world, in essence, became “flat,” and people became more interconnected with each other. It started with the implementation of fiber optic cables that expanded the speed and reach of the Internet.
Since the Internet is a vast, open collection of networks, wifi hot spots gradually became available for free in many areas of the United States. Internet speeds have also increased, along with the proliferation of wireless technologies, such as the 802.11 wireless standards, 3G, 4G, and 5G, as well as other innovations on the market. It also opened up vulnerabilities that adversaries and malicious actors could exploit, which prompted the need to develop and invest a greater focus in cyber defense technologies.
Stage 3: Big Data and AI
The advancements made in computing then propelled the advent of AI into the world. When a person mentions artificial intelligence, people would think robots. They’d be right in this instance, as what was once considered to be science fiction is now a reality. Robots are slowly creeping their way into specific industries. Companies such as Tesla and Amazon are heavily investing in robotics, negating the need for human labor. There are strong economic incentives that are driving the need for AI and robotics, which Andrew Yang mentions in his book “The War on Normal People.” Increasing safety, minimizing loss of life, and efficiency is drivers for these technologies to push forward.
He said time, and again throughout his numerous interviews, the country is in what is called the Fourth Industrial Revolution – automation and AI. In approximately five to ten years, these two forces will reshape human labor in such a way where our work efforts will be less central to the economy. Before the election of President Trump, over 4 million manufacturing jobs closed due to automation.
These events, in turn, led to the collapse of jobs that require mid-tier skills. Nowadays, most of the higher-paying professions are highly specialized and need degrees to get the foot through the door. Predictions indicate that automation will continue to displace the most mundane jobs where repetitive tasking is required. These jobs include trucking, retail work, cashier work, and administrative duties.
The drive for capital efficiency is creating a breakdown where the needs of the market have overtaken democratic values and will further deteriorate society. While new technologies often make lives easier for people as consumers, the workers will often struggle to find a place within the new economy.
In closing, we spoke about how connectivity and artificial intelligence is changing the game in how society operates. GHB Intellect offers prospective clients consulting services that revolve around science and technology evaluations, engineering and design testing/development, and patenting/intellectual property services. Our primary focus is keeping pace with industries while providing our clients with actionable intelligence and help them remain competitive. Our subject matter experts cover different subject areas where you would be represented appropriately based on specific standards.
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