Next Generation Productivity

Computers have a long history of replacing the work of humans.  Before mainframes large businesses would have armies of people with punch calculators to do the work that is now in a single spreadsheet (each person performing just a cell of that sheet).

Over the past 60 years the primary productivity benefit from computers has been the ability to do our math work and implement logical rules on data.

It seems like we are finally getting to a point where computers can start to do some of the softer skills normally only done by humans.

Projects like OpenCV and Scikit-learn give mere mortal programmers the ability to write software tools that are astonishing.  There are a growing catalog of libraries for deep learning, big data and natural language processing that are at a tipping point of being easy to use and deploy.

The next generation of productivity wins will come from leveraging these new tools.  Smart email auto-replies, smarter code completion, smarter communication, and plumbing together of much more complex automations. Talking to computers as if communicating to a human and expecting it to understand.

This may be the final turning point in productivity where humans lose the ability to keep up or find a new industry to be employed.  One of the fastest growing segments of employment is being a personal trainer.  Computers so far have failed to provide a compelling replacement to person-to-person motivation at the gym.  However there is no guarantee that those jobs are not at risk given smart watches and connected equipment paired with sufficiently written software.

If that is the case then a good strategy would be to try and be on the side that takes advantage of the productivity gains and not on the side that will become unemployed because of them.  If a doctor using the latest in AI tools can see and treat 5x the number of patients as one who doesn’t use them then if you’re a doctor you should try to avoid being one of those doctors who can only examine 1/5th the number of patients.

These kind of productivity gains will take time to fully materialize but perhaps less than you expect. As they come into play more wealth will consolidate into the hands of those at the head of the curve.  It will increasingly be difficult to keep those jobs that are automatable.

It seems inevitable that this will happen and it’s up to you to make career moves that will land you on the side that stays employed.  If you’re in a position to leverage these new AI tools it will be in your personal best interest to do so.