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What Happened when Coronavirus Set In?
Chatbots Made Mass Entry
High-tech companies closed call centers and turned to chatbots created by technology company LivePerson or to AI platform Watson Assistant.
“I really think this is a new normal–the pandemic accelerated what was going to happen anyway,” says Rob Thomas, senior vice president of cloud and data platform at IBM, which deploys Watson. Roughly 100 new clients started using the software from March to June.
The future of chatbots looks bright.
Microsoft recently was granted a patent that lays down a process to create a conversational chatbot of a specific person using their social data. “In an eerie twist, the patent says the chatbot could potentially be inspired by friends or family members who are deceased, which is almost a direct plot of a popular episode of Netflix's Black Mirror.”
Robots Repalced Labor
Robots started cleaning floors at airports and taking people’s temperatures.
Salad -making robot Sally, created by tech company Chowbotics became popular in hospitals and universities, replacing dining-hall employees.
Knightscope security-guard robots started to patrol empty real estate.
Companies that manufacture in-demand supplies like hospital beds and cotton swabs turned to industrial robot supplier Yaskawa America to help increase production.
Robots have been deployed during the pandemic to meet guests at their rooms with newly disinfected keys. “No tip required,” mechanical butler designed by robotics company Savioke got busy delivering towels and toothbrushes.
In the past, when automation eliminated jobs, companies created new ones to meet their needs. Manufacturers with production prowess, created more goods using machines, needed clerks to ship the goods and marketers and sales people to reach additional customers.
“Without technological advancement, much of the American workforce would be toiling away on farms, which accounted for 31% of U.S. jobs in 1910 and now account for less than 1%.”
In theory, automation and artificial intelligence should free humans from the monotony of the mundane and empower them in intellectually stimulating assignments, making companies more productive and raising worker wages.
In practice, this is what happened.
“The U.S. shed around 40 million jobs at the peak of the pandemic, and while some have come back, some will never return. One group of economists estimates that 42% of the jobs lost are gone forever.”
COVID-19 was simply a catalyst in the process.
The Backdrop for the Cause of Concern
The U.S. government incentivizes companies to automate, he says, by giving tax breaks for buying machinery and software. A business that pays a worker $100 pays $30 in taxes, but a business that spends $100 on equipment pays about $3 in taxes, according to Daron Acemoglu, an MIT economist who studies automation and jobs.
The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act lowered taxes on purchases so much that “you can actually make money buying equipment,” Acemoglu says.
Fast forward 3 years, we have a planet programmed pandemic.
This is how some companies reacted.
Facing the Facts
There is no denying the fact that automation lets companies do more with fewer people. The most valuable company in the U.S. in 1964, AT&T, had 758,611 employees; the most valuable company today, Apple, has around 137,000 employees.
LivePerson, which designs conversational software, could enable a company to take a 1,000-person call center and run it with 100 people plus chatbots. A bot can respond to 10,000 queries in an hour; an efficient call-center rep can answer six, says, CEO Rob LoCascio
Though today’s big companies make billions of dollars, they share that income with fewer employees, and more of their profit goes to shareholders. Again, in the words of Daron Acemoglu, “Look at the business model of Google, Facebook, Netflix. They’re not in the business of creating new tasks for humans.” ... Now, that's a sobering reminder.
Looking Ahead — 'Reskilling Revolution'
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for change, by disrupting economic activity and fast-tracking automation and digitization, “creating both devastation across labor markets and new opportunities for online learning, redeployment and reemployment.”
According to data gathered by LinkedIn, Coursera and the World Economic Forum in the Future of Jobs Report 2020, projects that by 2025, the hours of work performed by machines and people will be equal. Around 85 million roles are set to be displaced by automation – primarily across manual or repetitive roles spanning both blue-collar and white-collar jobs – from assembly factory workers and accountants.
The most in-demand roles in future job markets include Data Analysts and Scientists, AI and Machine Learning Specialists, Robotics Engineers, Software and Application developers as well as Digital Transformation Specialists, Information Security Analysts and Internet of Things Specialists.
The most in-demand skills of the future will include working with people, problem-solving and self-management skills such as resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. This increase in required self-management skills is clear as workers face a range of pressures to adapt to new, more digital ways of working. Product Management, Digital Marketing and Software Development Lifecycle are among the core set of specialized skills required for emerging professions.
According to the report, reskilling for the roles of the future will require a time investment ranging from three weeks to five months. That is the good news.
Stay Safe. Stay Positive. Celebrate your uniqueness!
CNBC, World Economic Forum, Time, MIT News, Forbes, Ernst and Young, USA Today, Edelman Trust Barometer, Forrester, Prosper Insights and Analytics, Autodesk, Bill Gates, Pega, BBC, CareerBuilder, Daniel Susskind, Capittal IQ, Financial Times, Grocerydive.com, popularmechanics.com
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