Last month, Budweiser delivered 50,000 beers via its very first self-driving truck. This recent example of automation was met with a divisive reaction, adding fuel to the debate of job insecurity and what a future of automation and artificial intelligence means for us.

On one hand, integrating self-driving trucks means putting 3.5 million truck drivers out of a job. On the other, self-driving cars could significantly reduce the rate of car accidents – the leading cause of death in the U.S. Regardless of one’s stance on the issue, it’s undeniable that automation means a cataclysmic shift for humanity.

Self-driving trucks means putting 3.5 million truck drivers out of a job. Tweet This Quote

During the Unreasonable Impact program, which focuses on job creation within the green economy, discussing the future of jobs was inevitable. As a way of opening up a discourse around the topic, mentors and specialists at the program shared their thoughts on what automation means for job creation.


JEFF HOFFMAN

Co-Founder of Priceline.com, Emmy Award Winning Producer, and “CEO Hall of Famer.”

I think while the technology kills the jobs we don’t want, it creates this opening to find new ways to deploy people that we’ve never thought of before. And I think that’s an exciting opportunity. We have so many human issues that we can’t deal with, and those aren’t jobs today. I think there’s all kinds of redeployment that’s good for the human race when we think it through.


TY TASHIRO

Social scientist and author of The Science of Happily Ever After.

On a policy level, we need to have good foresight and a really holistic plan. One of the ideas I’ve heard is a basic income that’s assured, which allows people to pursue vocations or interests or something they’re
passionate about, instead of the job they were doing that’s now been automated.

On a policy level, we need to have good foresight and a really holistic plan. Tweet This Quote

Obviously, automation could go really badly if we don’t have good foresight, but I think if we do, there’s a lot of opportunities to unlock people’s potential and allow them to do the things that they actually want to do in life.


TOM CHI

Former Lead of the team at Google X that created Google Glass and the self-driving car.

I would say that jobs as they are is not necessarily your benchmark because intrinsically, the nature of jobs will change. The initial computers were actually human beings that were just really good at math and would compute stuff by hand. That as a job no longer exists, but people with analytic skills moved on to be accountants and actuaries and data scientists.

Is there a world where all manufacturing is done by machines, including fine detail work? Absolutely. Is there a world where transportation and logistics will be fully automated? Absolutely. But the way that I look at it is we’re chasing down these high value things, we’re eventually getting to the point where the basics like food, clothing, and shelter go into automation and will become incredibly cheap.

Source:  McKinsey Photos from:  Unsplash

Source: McKinsey
Photos from: Unsplash


GEORGE KEMBEL

Co-Founder of the Stanford d.school, entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

Job creation and the employment rate increasingly sound to me like industrial era metrics – that we’re measuring the health of our economy based on employment. And I think we’re moving past the idea that the job is the measure of economic health.

I think we’re moving past the idea that the job is the measure of economic health. Tweet This Quote

We’re starting to see more of a pioneering spirit of blazing the trail that you want in your life and creating the economics to support the life that you want. That’s the backdrop in which I would answer that question. If I hear automation in the wrong jobs, that sounds scary, like automation is going to kill jobs. But if you put it against this other canvas of jobs no longer being the metric, but people finding their own means, then technology is a radical enabler.


CHERYL HELLER

Serial entrepreneur, founder of the MFA Design for Social Innovation at SVA, founder of the design lab CommonWise.

I think job creation and automation can’t be looked at in the same way around the world. There are countries that are so far from people having livelihoods or jobs, the last thing anybody needs to worry about is automation.

So for the people that are working in the United States, for the people who are in other countries where jobs have been lost to automation, I think that it’s a bigger problem that society has to solve as a whole. And I also think there are examples of organizations like Ecovative in New York with its plastic replacement grown from mushrooms that are creating new industries and new ways of thinking about industry. And I think it’s a different kind of invention in developed countries than it is in developing countries. It’s a really place-based issue.


HUNTER LOVINS

Founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, author of Natural Capitalism, Millennium TIME Hero of the Planet.

More fundamentally, the issue is about who owns the machines. Who owns this intelligence? It is a form of capital, and increasingly in our economy, capital is what begets capital. So we need to rethink capitalism. This is particularly acute in the area of who owns the intelligence, who owns automation, because if it’s going to put us all out of work, then we need to get out ahead of it and have a discussion on how do we distribute the benefits of this automation.

More fundamentally, the issue is about who owns the machines. Who owns this intelligence? Tweet This Quote

Jobs are more than just the way in which the world defines you by your paycheck. It defines you whether you’re white-collar or blue-collar, but it is your purpose. For many people, it is more of a purpose than your family. It’s where you spend most of your time. In a day, it’s who you are. And so we’re going to have to rethink everything from our economic structures to how we make a living to who we are. All of this kicked off by a couple of robots.


PASCAL FINETTE

Serial tech entrepreneur, Managing Director of Singularity University Labs, coach and speaker.

I think it’s a multifaceted problem. I believe that there will be job loss due to automation. Some people call this technology unemployment. The classic example is self-driving cars, eliminating the need for drivers. Those jobs will probably be gone. I think it’s a little shortsighted for two reasons.

I believe that automation leading to lower costs, leading to more abundantly available services, goods, etc. will actually create a situation where more and more of our living needs are more and more accessible to everyone.

The other side is what history has shown us again and again, that when one type of job disappears, it typically gets replaced with something else. When you think about the industrial age where a lot of craftsmen’s jobs went away, nobody really knew what the new types of jobs would be.


GRACE KIM

Managing Director at GOODcorps

My thoughts on automation and technology and what it means for job creation would begin with a reminder of what it means to be human and how to remember humans in our society and what they mean for business.

It comes down to the question of how do we treat humans as humans and not as commodities Tweet This Quote

When decisions are made purely for production and yield with no regard for human life, and careers have been built within the company for years because of being part of the production line, it begs the question of who’s paying attention for the people.

For me it comes down to the question of how do we treat humans as humans and not as commodities who happen to be able to generate extra profit for a company.

About the author

Cecily Mauran

Cecily Mauran

Cecily is an Associate Editor for UNREASONABLE.is. She is an entrepreneur, writer, photographer, dog lover, outdoors enthusiast, and hot sauce connoisseur. She believes in entrepreneurship as a tool for social impact.

  • slpp

    I feel that Automation is great when used for entrepreneurial purposes and for the creation of new processes, technologies, and thus jobs. Automation can also be a great asset for virtually any job, where many tasks can be effectively delegated to computers and machines. However, like Grace Kim states, it is important that, when applying automation, we think in terms of individuals not numbers. Sure, automating a whole process line might make things cheaper for the company, but it leaves those who built their lives around that job hanging out to dry.

    As for the pursuit of driverless cars, I believe it makes sense in certain cases, but cannot help but think that companies should be focusing on electric cars instead. The whole consumer driverless car concept just does not really do much for me; sure, it is an incredible feat of technology, and passive driverless controls like those in Teslas can be useful, but I’d rather see a proliferation in charging stations and electric cars, which will, in time, make owning one much cheaper. Driverless cars, however, are great in terms of freighting. I did not know Budweiser already did this, but I think it is great. The right implementation of automation in this area won’t drive truckers out of business, but rather be used to deliver goods more consistently without overworking drivers, who might get into accidents. Although, this certainly raises questions of lower wages because of lower working hours and perhaps lack of overtime.

    More importantly, automation means efficiency, which leads to lower production costs – costs that, hopefully will be passed on to the consumer, making many goods otherwise inaccessible available to consumers around the world.

    Also, automation and A.I. is the future and I don’t believe it can be stopped. Humanity will adapt just like it did after the Industrial Revolution and the Internet. Jobs that are lost pave the way for new ones – the market will balance itself.

  • Andrew Ionescu

    I enjoyed this article as it brings up an interesting debate that is on the horizon and becoming a reality faster than we think. With self-automation seeking to take over millions of jobs what happens to our job security? I appreciated how this article took excerpts and comments from a wide variety of well-established entrepreneurs each with a slightly different take on the matter. I am on board with the entrepreneurs that don’t believe that self-automation will be harmful to jobs in the long run. I appreciated Pascal’s remarks that we seem to forget how history repeats itself so often. A new revolution almost always leads into a drastic change in the work environment and job market. I was also very intrigued by George’s viewpoint that maybe self-automation would remove all the trivial jobs in the market and allow people to truly pursue their passions and dreams. There are so many jobs out there now that don’t require much or any education or training. I was frightened by the statistic in this article that only 4% of work currently requires creativity and only 29% of work requires sensing emotion. So many people nowadays hate their jobs because they are stuck in positions that don’t challenge them and that they are not passionate about. While it sounds harsh, removing all the jobs that don’t require much skill would force the growth of new businesses and passions. In addition, the incorporation of new jobs that we can’t accurately foresee right now would be the perfect time for these new passions to take light. Finally, I would like to place emphasis on Hunter’s question that, if self-automated jobs continue to grow like it seems it will, who owns this intelligence. Would this open an industry of different niches robot-building companies or would the whole industry be owned by 1 or 2 companies? Would the sale of a robot yield full 100% control of the robot to the consumer or does the seller still have some control? If the floodgates of self-automation open up this would yield huge potential capital gains. Wherever there is capital it must be closely watched as corruption is not too far behind. I am very excited in this new age and these are my only concerns.

  • Juan Parra

    I was very intrigued by the way you decided to write this article. Instead of a typical article where the author simply states his or her opinion and provides evidence through sources, your method sought to let reader make his or her own conscious decision on the issue. The union of multiple testimonials from prominent people in society helped serve as influences that led the reader to formulate his or her opinion. These testimonials range throughout the spectrum as some fear the idea of automation and artificial intelligence, some praised it, and others took a more neutral response.

    Some important topics discussed in the article highlight the negative and positive effects of automation, the importance of profit and reduction of costs vs human importance, and relative importance of automation and artificial intelligence based on geographic region.

    The analysis of the benefits and costs of automation and artificial intelligence included several different viewpoints between the testimonials. Most testimonials agreed that although automation and artificial intelligence will cause job lose, the emergence of new jobs would parallel this lose. An important thing I would like to note that was not really discussed was that automation and artificial intelligence is a developing and adapting process. For the most part, automation and artificial intelligence will not be fully implemented as it is still experimental. The gradual implementation of these technologies will better ensure the dependency and efficiency of these systems.

    A topic that resonated with me the most was the last testimonial. Grace Kim provided a deeper understanding of the purpose of automation and artificial intelligence. Kim highlighted the fact that the implementation of these technologies solely as a means of “production and yield with no regard for human life” is the real fear factor of automation and artificial intelligence. Although humans are flawed and cannot match the efficiency of intelligent systems, humans have a deeper understanding of people and the outside world. Mainly compassion, empathy, and many other emotions that technology cannot have. This testimonial really provided a new perspective of automation and artificial intelligence as not just a means of profit or material growth, but more on how companies view their employees.

    I for one am eager for the implementation of artificial intelligence. Being able to bring life to inanimate objects is revolutionary. Automation and artificial intelligence should not be intensively implemented but rather another resource that humans have to ensure innovation, efficiency, and effectiveness.

  • Hi Juan, thank you for your thoughtful response. It is a complicated issue with many facets that need to be examined. For this reason, we wanted to start a discourse rather than state an opinion. And we agree with you that Kim’s point gets to the heart of the issue– of how can humanity evolve responsibly and ethically. Looking forward to more comments from you!