In the Future We’ll All Be Programmers

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and noted futurist, Christian Kromme.  Here he forecasts a future in which we’ll all be programmers.

We are living in a time of extraordinary change in which every individual, business, industry, and government is being impacted by simultaneous breakthroughs in computing power, connectivity, biotechnology and artificial intelligence. These waves of disruption are gathering momentum across the globe with exponential technologies automating all rational processes that cross their path. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics can and will automate many hard skills that can be defined by rules. As a result, many hard skills will become cheap and abundant, and many traditional jobs will be automated in the next decade. But we will also see the birth of many new jobs! 

The introduction of the internet destroyed many jobs, but did you know that for every job the internet destroyed, it created 2.6 new jobs? Technologies like AI and robots will probably do the same; they will destroy millions of jobs based on hard skills. Still, at the same time, AI and robots will create tens of millions of new jobs based on soft skills that technology is unable to deliver.  

So, what will these new jobs look like, and what kind of skills will people need to fulfill those new jobs?  

I believe the human workforce will be the flexible and creative “skin” around increasing technology. We are moving towards an economy with fully personalized products – for every human and for every need a different custom product. Producing 1,000 customized products is exponentially more complicated than creating 1,000 of the same product. So, we will need all the exponential technology and a lot of humans to fulfill the needs of this future economy. 

Will everyone become a programmer? 

I believe it is very likely that the majority of our production workforce will become our programming workforce. But not programming as we know it today, like coding on a computer. No, future programmers will be different. Humans will teach AI and robots how to perform specific tasks. This is already happening; former call center employees are now teaching chatbots how to respond to and interact with customers. Factory workers are teaching production robots how to perform specific production tasks.  

Let me give you an example of what programming in the future might look like. Today, most of us have a family member or partner who knows exactly how and when you like your breakfast or your coffee. Not because you programmed him or her that way, but because they learned from previous conversations and experiences and adapted their behavior to suit your preferences. I believe that this is what automation and programming in the future will look like, only it will be driven by AI and not just by our human interactions. Just tell the system how you like it, and software routines are created to suit your needs. It will all happen behind the scenes, so you probably won’t be aware of it, but it will be happening. It’s not that much of a leap.  

Because AI systems can learn quickly, you won’t have to tell the machines things twice. Now, if you have children, you will probably be able to imagine how wonderful that would be! In a custom product economy, the production processes will be changing all the time, so the machines will need human feedback and training to do the right thing. And human beings will be the ones that inspire and train the machines by merely telling and showing them how. I’m confident that machines, sensors, and AI technology will soon be able to read non-verbal reactions too. Imagine a computer having the emotional intelligence to understand your gestures and emotions, or detect a change of tonality in your voice? In the future, everyone can be a programmer, even if you cannot type one line of code. 

What do you think of Christian’s predictions? Do you believe you’ll be working more closely with robots and/or artificial intelligence solutions in the future?

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