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Our AI fu­ture could in­crease de­mand for artists

APC Australia - - Contents -

The rise of AI and ma­chine learn­ing shows no sign of slow­ing down, but the grav­ity of its de­vel­op­ment seems lost on most. But the in­dus­try and field of study con­tin­ues to grow apace, with Sil­i­con Val­ley seem­ingly de­ter­mined to elim­i­nate the jobs of mil­lions via au­to­ma­tion — and with­out stop­ping to won­der how all those peo­ple will sur­vive.

Well, if au­to­ma­tion means there’re no check­outs at Coles to man or trucks to drive, how’s an arts de­gree sound? In 2018, pur­su­ing a ‘ca­reer’ in arts — or in­deed, any form of work that isn’t profit-for-profit’s-sake — seems like a ticket to poverty and bit­ter­ness. But ac­cord­ing to Eric Ber­ridge, a “busi­ness tech­nol­ogy spe­cial­ist” for global con­sult­ing firm Blue­wolf, it’s those with arts know-how (rather than, say, engi­neer­ing) which will be most sought af­ter in this AI-driven fu­ture.

Ber­ridge said as much dur­ing a re­cent Sales­force event in Syd­ney, ac­cord­ing to a story on Busi­ness In­sider. Blue­wolf is a com­pany which, among other things, spe­cialises in con­sult­ing with busi­nesses re­gard­ing “trans­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy” (ie, stuff like AI) and re­cently joined the IBM fam­ily. Ba­si­cally, Ber­ridge reck­ons that as en­gi­neers it­er­ate on tech­nol­ogy, it will be­come so easy to use and so stream­lined that arts grad­u­ates could ap­ply their artis­tic touches in fields that would oth­er­wise be out-of-bounds to them.

“If you look at peo­ple we hire at Blue­wolf, we have thou­sands of prac­ti­tion­ers glob­ally. Very few of them have de­grees in pure science. We’re hir­ing artists, we’re hir­ing mu­si­cians we’re hir­ing a whole dif­fer­ent class of de­grees than a tech com­pany would typ­i­cally hire.

“STEM is very im­por­tant for so­ci­ety, but you go on LinkedIn to­day and look at jobs that are cur­rently posted for or­gan­i­sa­tions like Google, Ap­ple, Ama­zon, you’d think that 80% of all their hires re­quire de­grees in engi­neer­ing and com­puter science,” he says. “It’s ac­tu­ally the op­po­site. We’re a big be­liever in the creative process when it comes to how or­gan­i­sa­tions evolve. We’re big be­liev­ers in how peo­ple com­mu­ni­cate and how the hu­man ex­pe­ri­ence feeds the out­come of that other ini­tia­tive.” Now, Ber­ridge was speak­ing at an in­dus­try event, anec­do­tally, so it’s hard to point the fin­ger. But it’s a com­mon enough at­ti­tude among (wealthy) lead­ers in tech­nol­ogy com­pa­nies: au­to­ma­tion and AI will cre­ate more not less work. But even if that’s true, for whom are these jobs for?

The re­al­ity of au­to­ma­tion is pretty grim if you’re nei­ther an en­gi­neer or hold an arts de­gree or, in­deed, work in jobs re­quir­ing no of­fi­cial qual­i­fi­ca­tions. Late last year, the US Bureau of La­bor Statis­tics re­leased a re­port which out­lined that elec­tron­ics as­sem­blers and word pro­ces­sors would have 45,300 and 25,000 fewer jobs in the mar­ket thanks to au­to­ma­tion. And while de­mand for other fields will con­tinue to rise — statis­ti­cians, de­vel­op­ers, math­e­ma­ti­cians — these are all high­skill jobs. No­tice a pat­tern here? The one ma­jor ex­cep­tion, of course, is on­line re­tail-ful­fil­ment cen­tres. So we can all at least look for­ward to our fu­tures of pack­ing boxes for Ama­zon, with heart mon­i­tor­ing wrist­bands to make sure we’re all work­ing ef­fec­tively...

“Well, if au­to­ma­tion means there’re no check­outs at Coles to man or trucks to drive, how’s an arts de­gree sound?”

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