Author says automation will replace South Dakota jobs

My series this week on technology’s potential impact on future human workforce needs in Sioux Falls is inspired in part by a Silicon Valley software developer’s book called “Rise of the Robots.”

In his book, Martin Ford argues that as technology continues to accelerate and machines begin taking care of themselves, fewer people are going to be necessary in the workplace.

Artificial intelligence is already writing stories and dabbling in art creating symphonies. Ford told me that in July 2012, the London Symphony Orchestra performed a composition entitled “Transits — Into An Abyss,” that was composed entirely by a machine.

He also made note of a company called Narrative Science, Inc., which developed an artificial intelligence engine called “Quill” that writes its own sports, business and political stories for top media outlets, including Forbes.

I talked to him by phone last week in Sunnyvale, Calif. Here are some excerpts from that conversation as we talked about technology’s potential impact on South Dakota.

Does your prediction of a jobless future because of technology’s impact apply to rural, small population states like South Dakota?

“South Dakota has kind of an atypical economy relative to other U.S. states, so the impact there may be muted. But in general, there are a lot of areas that are probably going to be impacted. Fast food jobs, jobs working at Walmart … I think over the longer run, those are all going to be impacted. There’s definitely going to continue to be an impact on agricultural jobs there. It may primarily begin in the industrial areas, the cities, but certainly it will make its way across South Dakota as well.”

With such low unemployment in South Dakota, will we simply see a shifting of workers to other jobs within industries as low-skill, repetitive jobs are covered by automation?

“That definitely will happen. If you have valuable employees capable of doing something else and you have openings, of course that is what you will do. But as we look forward into the future, 10 years from now, 20 years, across the board is that the way it’s going to operate? My guess is there won’t be enough of those new positions, and not everyone impacted is going to be capable of being retrained.”

One in four jobs in South Dakota is retail or service industry work. How will automation and technology affect them?

“Where I live, the self checkout aisles in grocery stores are very popular. When they first came out, people didn’t use them. Now they line up for them. People get more used to that technology. Now instead of eight cashiers, you have one cashier person overseeing eight of these self-serve aisles. I think it’s inevitable you’ll see this in other retail businesses, too. There’s going to be a strong competitive dynamic. When one big chain goes this way, others will have to follow suit.”

I can see where low-skilled, repetitive jobs might be at risk. How about white-collar workers?

“If you’re doing something formulaic at work, doing the same thing again and again. … definitely machines are going to get much better at that. There are companies using computers to analyze their general corporate reports, their investment reports. They can analyze stocks and produce reports from them. And remember, technology is getting better and better exponentially. The impact could come way before we expect it. Once that impact comes, it’s going to be everywhere. Certainly, state borders aren’t going to prevent technologies from encroaching.”

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Author says automation will replace South Dakota jobs

Via: Google Alerts for AI