Imagine all enterprise functions automated by software and performed through a single point of access, which happens to be a virtual agent with cognitive capabilities. You can stop imagining and start thinking about the repercussions, because this is much closer than you may think.
I have not met a single CEO, from Deutsche Bank to JP Morgan, who said to me: ‘ok, this will increase our productivity by a huge amount, but it’s going to have social impact — wait, let’s think about it’.
George Anadiotis, Who’s automating the enterprise? Meet Amelia and the future of work, ZDNet, November 8, 2017. Accessed November 8, 2017.
In commenting on the proposed tax cuts for businesses in the U.S., numerous business analysts have pointed out that many global corporations have lots of cash on hand (much of it off shore) and that borrowing costs are very low. If there were investment opportunities in the U.S. that promised a decent return, those corporations would be using that cash and borrowing capital.
Profits have been rising largely via cost cutting and swallowing up rivals rather than through the growing incomes of customers and clients. Can workers in the U.S. really expect U.S. corporations to change investment strategies solely because their cash holdings overflow even more?
Even if the tax cuts went to U.S. consumers, the impact on investment strategies would be minimal – unless Trump succeeds in creating a U.S. market protected from imported consumer goods. Tax cuts and automation are not the private domain of U.S. economic policy; Germany and China and all the other players can be expected to respond with their own investment incentives, so increased U.S. consumer spending would almost certainly distribute new investment across the world economy, resulting in more automation, more global displacement of working people, more profits, more wealth inequality, and more damage to the natural environment.
It is worth noting one more thing from the article cited above. Business operations can now be automated very quickly, much more quickly than underfunded retraining programs can retrain workers and return them to work. This mismatch between the speed of business innovation and the speed of government responses to worker displacement and income losses will only get worse.