By @SimonCocking review of What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data, by Malcolm FrankPaul RoehrigBen Pring, ISBN: 978-1-119-27866-5 available from Wiley here.

What To Do When Machines Do Everything is a guidebook to succeeding in the next generation of the digital economy. When systems running on Artificial Intelligence can drive our cars, diagnose medical patients, and manage our finances more effectively than humans it raises profound questions on the future of work and how companies compete. Illustrated with real-world cases, data, and insight, the authors provide clear strategic guidance and actionable steps to help you and your organization move ahead in a world where exponentially developing new technologies are changing how value is created.

This is a great book to read, both because it is enjoyable to read and thought provoking, but also because it suggests there might still be a future for us, as humans in an AI driven world. This book aims to analyse and consider the near and coming future, not the time of Skynet and the rise of the machines, rather the next 3 to 10 years. This makes more a nuanced and considered evaluation of current trends and the logical places it will probably take us to. A key concept to understand is the one that, as we enter Industry 4.0 / the world of 50 billion connected devices and everything that this brings, it is tasks rather than jobs that are being automatised.

In many interviews we have conducted the question we have asked futurologists is whether the future will bring a creative renaissance or the redundancy of humanity. In the previous industrial revolutions, after a period of dislocation and upheaval, we have seen a movement of people into less repetitive, drudge type jobs. The authors in this book also see the current wave of changes as also bringing an expansion of what is possible and with it many more opportunities for those able to respond. We have already witnessed the rise of current occupations that didn’t even have a name 10 or even 5 years ago.

Looking at the near future the authors feel we will be in a period of narrow, rather than general artificial intelligence for a while to come yet. This brings us into an era of smart rather than dumb products and services. The book then delves into potential strategies for those companies that don’t wish to be blindsided by these changes, particularly in terms of identifying those positions where 50% or more of the tasks can be automated. They see jobs who have highly repetitive tasks, a low demand for human judgement and a need for a low level of empathy, as all being ones to go first. And, to be honest, these are probably jobs that we could do with automating. This may then enable humans to then focus on what they do best, ideally in terms of creativity, human to human services, out of the box problem solving and other things that AI does not yet do well.

It is an interesting and thought provoking book, and one that is well worth reading if you are wondering what our near future will probably look like. Skynet and the rise of the machines will hopefully be postponed for a little while yet!

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