If Daniel Nadler is right, a generation of college graduates with well-paid positions as junior researchers and analysts in the banking industry should be worried about their jobs. Very worried.
Mr Nadler’s start-up, staffed with ex-Google engineers and backed partly by money from Google’s venture capital arm, is trying to put them out of work.
Its algorithms assess how different securities are likely to react after the release of a market-moving piece of information, such as a monthly employment report. That is the kind of work usually done by well-educated junior analysts, who pull data from terminals, fill in spreadsheets and crunch numbers. “There are several hundred thousand people employed in that capacity. We do it with machines,” says Mr Nadler. “We’re not competing with other [tech] providers. We’re competing with people.”
Warren – the name given to the system, in homage to investor Warren Buffett – is part of a new army of “smart” machines that are threatening to invade office life. These computers do not just collect and process information; they draw inferences, answer questions and recommend actions, too.
The threat to jobs stretches beyond the white-collar world. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) also make possible more versatile robots capable of taking over many types of manual work. “It’s going to decimate jobs at the low end,” predicts Jerry Kaplan, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who teaches a class about AI at Stanford University. Like others working in the field, he says he is surprised by the speed at which the new technologies are moving out of the research labs.
It is axiomatic that over the next twenty years or so, almost all jobs currently being done by humans (95% plus) will be done faster, cheaper, and more dependably by machines.
We are entirely unprepared to live in a world like that, and yet it keeps right on coming at us. You think unemployment is bad now? Wait till you see it ten years down the road.
Of course by then they won’t be calling it unemployment. It will be voluntary retirement, or job-unlocking, or livin’ la vida dole. Doesn’t matter what you call it, though. Our current culture won’t survive it.