Mornings are easier than ever for me. True, I need to be careful shaving around the RFID chip in my chin. That’s a small price to pay for not having to look around the house for my wallet and keys, which I no longer need because that tiny chip and biometrics lock my front door and start my car, which now drives itself. And if something goes wrong on the road and I arrive at the hospital unconscious, my RFID chip will present my medical history to emergency room doctors.
Okay, maybe not.
Ten years ago, NBC Nightly News ran a segment explaining how RFID chips and biometrics would transform our lives in ways such as these by 2017. The experts NBC interviewed got some things right, such as the use of fingerprints in some transactions. And yet the experts were merely thinking through the potential of technologies that existed in 2007.
Everyone is focused on the consequences of technology, which we imagine as making change automatic. Less obvious is that the biggest business issue of 2027 might depend on how well businesses have incorporated that know-how. Before technologies can revolutionize our lives, leaders must execute the correct business strategies to make them work.
Consider Uber, often thought of as an instant disruptor. The ride-hailing service began in 2009 as UberCab, an app for calling limousines. It took Uber a few years to figure out how to upend transportation.
Today, the experts of 2017 tell us the Internet of Things will revolutionize every mundane activity. Blockchain, the decentralized and encrypted technology that powers Bitcoin and other alternative financial transactions, will streamline logistics and pressure time-honored professions by removing the middle person.
But it is artificial intelligence, or AI, that has many experts worried. While Uber can replace the taxi driver, AI can replace us all, we are told.
Every college student I know asks if there will still be jobs in their future. I tell them: Yes, AI has the potential to create more jobs than it kills. In 10 years, I imagine most cognitive workers will be working in creative collaboration with intelligent machines.
New industries yet unborn will almost certainly rely on the complementary strengths of artificial and human intelligence. The most relevant finding of researchers has been that when talented people and well-programmed computers combine their efforts, they become a killer app that humans and AI alone cannot match.
This new synergy between man and thinking machine should not only augment work; it has the promise to reinvent the concept of work itself. Computers will refine useful insights from the static of big data. People will bring context — the ability to define what needs to be improved or fixed, and the emotional intelligence to execute a solution appropriately. Human-AI collaboration should redefine work, from tasks and processes in need of streamlining into problems in need of solving.
We should remember that AI is still in its infancy, much as the automobile was nearly a century ago. That industry led to the development of the national highway system. Just as Route 66 created new opportunities for Americans and spurred the arrival of new businesses from motels to all-night diners and gas stations, so too will AI create new industries, outlooks and possibilities.
AI is currently being used to explore new solutions in health care, education, and urban planning among many other industries. Meanwhile, it is strengthening the demand for supporting technologies such as processing power, data storage and appropriate security measures.
As with all promising technologies, however, the future of AI will depend on how well business leaders integrate it into their operations. So expect this journey to integrated human-machine teams by 2027 to have twists, turns and dead ends.
Of course, I could be wrong. Technology has a way of humbling predictions. Of one thing I am certain: In 2027, I expect to still have a wallet and keys to misplace somewhere in my house.
Frank Friedman is the chief operating officer of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited.
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