The speed at which AI is advancing has shocked even experts in the field. If this pace continues, what does it mean for our future?
Futurist Sinead Bovell joined Bloomberg for an episode of AI IRL to share her outlook on our AI-fueled future and when it’s going to reach us. Below is a condensed version of Sinead’s interview — watch her full segment in the video at the end of the article.
Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and length.
Bloomberg: What is your view of AI at the moment? You have a long-term view and a short-term view — which is the most realistically positive and the most realistically negative?
Sinead Bovell: I don’t necessarily subscribe to being an optimist or pessimist; I try to keep it to being a futurist. We are in a very, very early stage of AI. We’re post-ARPANET, pre-internet in the early ages of email and we don’t really know how things are going to transpire or evolve. So, we’re tuning into Hollywood’s version of the future, believing that’s where we’re headed. Of course, some dystopian futures are possible but that’s not where we need to end up. There are a lot of amazing people working on AI safety and alignment so we have a good shot if we can get our act together.
Bloomberg: What does it mean to be a futurist and what inputs do you consider when coming up with your forecasts?
SB: I think it means different things for different people. For me, it’s about analyzing quantitative and qualitative data and using that to build forecasts about where the future might be headed. So, I look at things like patents that’ve been filed, different job postings, where companies are investing, geopolitical relationships, societal sentiment, and then a bit of history and I use that to formulate forecasts.
Bloomberg: What’s the timeframe that you’re thinking about when it comes to AI’s impact on the future of work?
SB: You can’t really predict when a breakthrough is going to happen, but I think by 2027, we will likely see close to a quarter of the workforce quite disrupted by AI. By that I mean augmented, not necessarily automated, but we will start to see tangible, measurable changes in the workforce over the next five years and some in the next two.
You may have heard some companies announce that because of ChatGPT or generative AI that they don’t think certain roles will be needed going forward, but that might be a bit premature. What we can say for sure is that some tasks will get automated but that’s different than an entire job. That being said, I would say in the next five years, we’ll start to see some measurable impact and I think, it doesn’t matter what job you’re in, you have to start using these tools.
Bloomberg: What types of industries might see the biggest impact coming out of AI?
SB: It’s hard to say because in the next 15 years, most of the jobs we’ll probably have, haven’t been invented yet. Like a social media manager didn’t exist 15 years ago and now if a company doesn’t have one, it’s toast. In fact, some studies show that between 1940 and now, 80% of the jobs we have today didn’t exist in 1940, so we need to take a long-term view when discussing the impact of AI on industry.
This is why I say the future doesn’t make sense in the present or it may seem overwhelming in the present because a lot of things change and new jobs and industries get invented and created. Think about wellness and the number of people working in that space now, it didn’t exist 10 years ago and that’s because of the role social media played in driving wellness and other trends forward.
Bloomberg: What humans seem to be extremely capable of doing is adapting. We adapt and we get better, we always do. Is it naïve to think we can keep doing that?
SB: History is a great way to analyze how drastically things have changed. How we live today is unrecognizable compared to 200 years ago, and that’s because we are entirely different beings, so to speak, in what we do in our day.
We have always adapted to technology. It’s a feedback loop — technology changes culture and society and then we change technology back. So I am confident that we can adapt to whatever’s in the pipeline, we just have to think critically about preparing for it and making sure that the people leading the charge are the people we want to be leading the charge. It needs to be a societal conversation.
There’s a tendency to want to hide from the future but the best thing we can do is prepare for it, and every voice matters in shaping it not just the few people coding it.
Hear more from Sinead in the video below:
Sinead Bovell is a futurist and the founder of WAYE, an organization that helps prepare the next generation of business leaders for a world radically transformed by technology. She is an eight-time United Nations speaker, an experienced host, and certified in AI ethics from MIT.
Speaking on the future of work, trends forecasting, AI, and more, contact us to learn more about Sinead and how she can prepare your organization for a future radically transformed by emerging technologies.