Niklas Zennström: Future-proof education because AI will displace jobs

Society needs to think about strategies for future-proofing education because technological innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to displace many jobs. As technology aims for greater efficiency, some jobs will disappear, serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Niklas Zennström said during a featured interview at Nordic Business Forum 2018.

“Some people believe that the acceleration of technology and AI may see [the loss of jobs] happen faster and that’s a thing to be nervous about,” Zennström said in a conversation with Timo Rein, co-founder of the cloud-based sales software solution Pipedrive.

“We should think about what kind of education we will have in the future,” he added.

Zennström, who is a co-founder of Skype, said that as technology aims for greater efficiency, some kinds of work, mainly tasks involving manual effort, will become redundant. On the other hand, jobs that will likely be harder to displace will be positions that involve human contact and lateral thinking and art.

“So something like basic accounting is probably something that will not be a great future job. Paralegal work, so sifting through contracts are not great futures jobs as well — and a lot of manufacturing,” Zennström stated.

However Zennström noted that no one knows what will really happen in the next 10 years. Rather than trying to foresee a specific future, the entrepreneur and anthropologist said that people need to try and forecast different possible outcomes.

In spite of the hazy future Zennström predicted that AI will there is a high likelihood that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will take over the roads, although it is not yet possible to say how long it will take before they replace the entire global fleet of manned vehicles.

The ultimate outcome of this development Zennström said, is that jobs will be lost and people like truck drivers will be affected. “There are currently three million truck drivers in the US. There is possibly a future where a lot of them will be out of jobs.”

Zennström reminded the audience that history is littered with examples of displaced jobs. He pointed to the industrial revolution, which relegated many kinds of work to the past. As agriculture and manufacturing became more efficient, he noted, people have been forced into other types of work.

Artificial intelligence technologies are increasingly coming under the radar of corporations. According to a survey of more than 1,600 data professionals, some 61 percent of organizations cited Machine Learning or AI as their most important data initiative for 2019.

Meanwhile another survey showed that a number of technology leaders such as Amazon, Apple, Google, Tesla and Microsoft have outstripped their respective sectors in their emphasis on investing in ML and AI and are embedding ML into next-generation products. Moreover, these technologies are being used to improve customer experience and efficiency in sales channels.

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