The well known technology advisory firm Gartner has come out with a forecast saying smart machines will replace enough humans to cause high unemployment, social unrest and general societal tumult by 2020.
Key quote from their press release:
Machines are evolving from automating basic tasks to becoming advanced self-learning systems as capable as the human brain in many highly specialized professions. As such, the next wave of job losses will likely occur among highly valued specialists during the next decade.
Lots of people are saying smart machines will disrupt society in the next 20-30 years.
But saying they will will disrupt society in just 6 years is certainly unconventional. And very unlikely to happen in such a short time frame.
And if their base case isn't pessimistic enough, according to a Computer Week article on the forecast the study author also provides a extreme case:
On an extreme end of the scale, he put the impact of smart machines at 90% unemployment, which is either catastrophic or leads to a utopia, where basic needs are met and people are free from drudge work.
What we call the Rage Against the Machines is a growing trend. It seems like every day a new article, forecast, book or opinion piece is released saying we're doomed because of automation.
As we pointed out in our article on this topic last week - The New Serfs and the End of the Middle Class - there's no way to look at what's happening to jobs and work without being very concerned. It's clear we're entering a period where good jobs are going to be harder to find and income inequality is likely going to continue to increase.
But the Cylons aren't going to take over in the next 6 years. We're also more optimistic about the longer term. Humans have long raged against machines. Charley Chaplain's depression era tirade against them in the movie Modern Times is a good example.
But machines also create opportunities and will likely do so again.