If you are anything like me, you are curious about the impact technology – and automation specifically – will have on the future of our workforce. In a recent TEDxLuxembourgCity TalkDavid Timis speaks optimistically about the widespread integration of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) and how these new forms of automation are poised to improve our lives and increase productivity.

Timis notes, however, that the opinions of some of our tech leaders are mixed. For example, Mark Zuckerberg believes “AI will help humanity reach its full potential.” Elon Musk, on the other hand, claims that “AI is the biggest existential threat to mankind.”

Before his death, Stephen Hawking shared a similar view, stating that “the development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. … It would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

I argue that it is too early to tell, and humans remain in control as to what AI is, how it is used and where it goes from here. In other words, it is not too late for human intelligence to pre-empt unruly, indestructible cyborgs.

Outlined below are Timis’ “key takeaways,” but I encourage you to make the 13-minute investment of your time and watch his presentation in full. Your curiosity will be piqued.

  • AI is not morally good or bad in itself
  • Widespread automation is unavoidable; experts believe that AI will be a main driver of the fourth industrial revolution
  • Humans will need to work alongside robots; according to the McKinsey Global Institute, less than 5% of jobs can be fully automated. But, in about 60% of occupations, at least one-third of the constituent activities could be automated
  • There will not be a shortage of jobs in the future, but rather a shortage of skills to perform these jobs
  • Education needs to be transformed from the ground up; according to the World Economic Forum, nearly 50% of subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree is outdated by the time students graduate
  • Schools should equip students with transferable skills; 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that do not currently exist

Timis’ final point is that history teaches us that technological change can benefit us all and should not be scary. He says, “If we invest in education (and) life-long learning, we’ll be able to adapt, pivot and get back on our feet regardless of the challenges we are faced with.”

David Timis is an EU Civics Outreach Fellow at Google and the co-founder of European Heroes, an initiative aimed at encouraging civic engagement among young Europeans. He is also an active member of the Global Shapers Community, a network of inspiring young people working together to address global challenges, and a country representative for the Common Futures Conversations project launched by Chatham House to facilitate dialogue between young people in Africa and Europe. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.
Adam H. Berry is vice president of economic development and technology at the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. He joined the organization in 2019.