When the problems of the world are collected together we call it society. Similar problems are taken to our places of business and we call them issues. Some are trivial, some are meaningful, but most are solvable. With complexity, more people are needed to bring unique and novel ideas to solve these problems. On a mega scale though, there are wicked problems. These are the problems where the issue is so complex, that a great number of experts are needed to solve this problem and typically it requires a behavioral change from society. The other elements to a wicked problem are that it is hard to define what a successful outcome would be, that there are no formulas on how to solve the problem and that there is no root cause to solve individually (Brown, 2010). Wicked problems are special in the fact that the ones we face today do not have a solution and that innovative ideas are necessary in solving these issues.
The first example is the age-old problem of poverty. While numerous people have moved out of poverty over the last century and the quality of life for mankind has increased significantly poverty is still pervasive. Over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day and over 1.6 billion live without electricity (Report, 2015). In our age of modern medicine, we still experience the death of over 2 Million kids per year due to not getting proper vaccines and medical treatment (WHO, 2014).
Combined with poverty, the Earth is overpopulated which is draining its natural resources. The global population is growing by 1.10 percent per year or roughly 83 million new lives each trip around the Sun. Current estimates project that the Earth’s population will be 11.2 billion people by 2100 (Nations, 2017). The frightening association with this is that the current rate of sustainable resources needed to sustain the current population is that 1.7 the Earths are needed to sustain the current depletion of resources (Consequences of Depletion of Natural Resources, 2019).
Resource depletion too has had a believed effect on the Earth’s climate change. With the temperature increases, the world is heating up 300 times faster than at any time in history. Sea ice is melting resulting in rising oceans which will flood most of the world’s metropolises (Wasdell, 2013). Combined with the influx of extreme weather events, the world is shifting, and society doesn’t truly understand the causes of these changes, how to fix them, or how to reverse the damage that has been done.
This is the world’s new reality, wicked problems in need of solving. Only highly skilled and innovative teams will be able to solve these problems. It wouldn’t be far off speculation that mankind is backed into a corner on solving these issues because the technology and knowledge to solve these problems hasn’t been invented yet. The one truth to these issues is that their solutions will have to be team based as no individual has the capability to solve these. If an individual claim that they have the answer to solve any of these issues, that is the first indicator that you are talking with a fool.
As exciting of a time that the technology world has created for us, we are now also reaching a point of unintended benefits and fears. Artificial Intelligence was incorrectly labeled as it began with applying preprogrammed algorithms based on logic coded by a human. “If X happens do Y, if B happens do Z.” This was revolutionary in the workforce though because it has enabled mankind to automate numerous process that previously used to take the time of multiple humans. Theoretically, this would then shift those resources into a knowledge worker role and society could advance at a greater speed as mankind’s focus would be placed on knowledge creation versus process application. As algorithms have expanded in size and complexity, true AI has started to take root with algorithms applying logic on themselves and reprogramming themselves automatically, this is the true form of artificial intelligence and knowledge being created independently of human intervention. This form of intelligence will only continue to grow from this point forward.
As algorithms have expanded so understands bias within these systems. Early adoption of this approach in the courts was the application of the Correctional Offender Management Profiling or COMPAS. This was the preprogrammed logic judges could use to understand if the person standing trial would be a likely candidate for recidivism. Similar models have been used in parole hearings. These models are based on the objective logic society expects and reduce the influence of subjective logic that the human element provides. Unfortunately, these models still create the same racial bias that is experienced in lower technology courts (Mims, 2019). This same bias has been experienced in hiring processes where ideal candidates are identified with bias and AI maximizes that bias exposing more than previously thought (Ip, 2019). These biases are the product of homogenous teams that have created parameters that significantly expose slight biases when AI is applied (Shellenbarger, 2019).
There are dangers with the rise of AI beyond bias. Currently, the Chinese government has significantly expanded the video surveillance of the country using facial recognition to track their population and their behaviors. They have combined this with a new pilot program that would then create social rankings for people’s behavior and truly create a police state (Fontaine, 2019). Job destruction is another danger of the expansion of AI. Theorists look to history as every great invention threatened jobs only to create more jobs in the future. While AI will provide productivity boosts there is a great potential that it may reduce jobs that will not be replaced with a new one and lead the economy into a significant decrease in spending power (Atkinson, 2019). Most futurists do confirm that with as impressive as AI is, it will still have limitations on creativity and new ideas (Gopnik, 2019). With the chance that AI does move into the knowledge creation ability mankind maybe in the age of AI that resembles that of the caveman where there is not much difference between man and animal with AI becoming unable to be controlled leading it to govern society.
Jobs of the Future
This leaves the world with the looming question of what jobs will be left in the future. Outsourcing will continue to happen, but those contracted roles will eventually fall giving way to more advanced automation. These are easy predictions to make, the more conceptually difficult leaps to make is when AI begins to automate locational positions. These are the roles that are based on being in a certain location at a specific time. These roles historically have been the police officers, mailmen, teachers, doctors, garbagemen, etcetera. Once believed safe roles, these may possibly be the first roles eliminated in the new AI economy.
In the shorter timeframe, corporate America is seeing the effect of AI not only in business process efficiency but with managerial coaching. Certain smartphone applications are now automating routine tasks like scheduling, accounting, measuring, and in some cases managerial coaching (Shellenbarger, The Robots That Manage the Manager, 2019). Going beyond the immediate horizon, if process jobs continue to be automated, the managerial model of command and control will go away as it will no longer be a necessary evil. The role of the human in the future will be project-based work in creating and those roles will be run via an adhocracy (Malone, 2019).
Extending the horizon of foresight and attempting to predict the secure jobs of the future, there appear to be no safe roles. AI will have inroads in the legal system, service industry, computer programing, manufacturing, engineering, and even the medical fields. In reality, the jobs of tomorrow haven’t even been thought of yet and that the safest wager for viable future employment is in the creative fields. The second wager to be placed is on acquiring the skill of learning agility or the ability to learn new things quickly. When these jobs of the future are identified, the competition will be intense to learn quickly and achieve immediate productivity. The silver lining is that mankind will never achieve a utopian society and that there will always be jobs. Possibly a significantly fewer amount of jobs, but there will always be a need to provide the world with something and the most advantageous position to be in is consistently reframing situations on what’s the best possible way to provide value.
Atkinson, R. (2019). Will AI Destroy More Jobs Than It Creates Over the Next Decade? Wall Street Journal.
Brown, V. a. (2010). Tackling Wicked Problems: Through the Transdisciplinary Imagination. London: Routledge.
Consequences of Depletion of Natural Resources. (2019, May 08). Retrieved from The World Counts: https://www.theworldcounts.com/stories/consequences_of_depletion_of_natural_resources
Fontaine, R. a. (2019). The Autocrat’s New Tool Kit. Wall Street Journal.
Gopnik, A. (2019). What AI Is Still Far From Figuring Out. Wall Street Journal.
Ip, G. (2019). Workers, Your Robot Overlords Have Arrived. Wall Street Journal.
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Mims, C. (2019). Our Software Is Biased, Too. Wall Street Journal.
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The report, H. D. (2015). Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience. United Nations Development Programme.
Shellenbarger, S. (2019). A Crucial Step for Averting AI Disasters. Wall Street Journal.
Shellenbarger, S. (2019). The Robots That Manage the Manager. Wall Street Journal.
Wasdell, D. (2013). The basis for a Carbon Budget? Stockholm: “Summary for Policymakers” of The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.
WHO, U. a. (2014). Immunization Summary: A statistical reference containing data through 2013. UNICEF and WHO.
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