Not long ago, we saw how no less than Elon Musk was concerned about the state of artificial intelligence (AI), and was working to try and make it so it didn't destroy the world when it came out. New research from Gallup, meanwhile, suggests that Musk may actually have something to worry about, or rather, millennials do. AI may be more of a threat to future employment than a lot of people realize right now, especially as relates to millennials.
The Gallup report notes that AI, along with automation, are some of the most disruptive forces the workplace has ever seen, and fully 37 percent of millennials are at “high risk” of being replaced by one of these two. The two older generations, boomers and Generation X, are only slightly less at risk, with about 32 percent risk.
The slight drop-off in risk comes from the slightly increased likelihood that older workers hold managerial positions, which are less likely to be hit by AI and automation systems. Younger workers commonly have fewer skills, and lower-skill positions are more likely to be automated.
While there's some doubt over just how long the changeover will take—some think years, others decades—it's already been shown that companies are already at least partially tech firms now. Most every company, from retailers to healthcare firms, has a Web presence, a mobile presence, and all the like; it's part of the push to omnichannel.
Thus, many are starting to think, how long before an AI is put in charge of all of that and most every human let go? It's not out of line to think that way; the basic precepts of capitalism say that, if it's possible for a business to save money, it needs to do so. If it doesn't, it risks falling behind competitors who will do so, and inevitably closing anyway. Some suggest potentially impacted employees take on a more entrepreneurial look at life or focus on retraining; even these are only partial addresses.
What retraining and entrepreneurial advocates seem to forget is that these things require working markets to function. If large portions of the population—like that 37 percent—can't find work, those portions aren't buying things. If they aren't buying, the market is reduced by that same percentage. Industries would do well to realize that AI systems don't shop; what happens to the companies that produce these things, even if they do the “right” thing and fire everybody for AI replacements? It's a false savings that will ultimately mean shuttered businesses. Will anyone realize that before sending out the pink slips? That's an uncertain conclusion at best.