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Where Is Ai Headed

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Rajeeve Kaul, Corporate Vice President, McDonaldsArecent report by McKinsey warns that in the next decade automation will put over 51 million jobs at risk (McKinsey Global Institute June 2020 report).

It’s difficult to understand the magnitude of the shift that’s taking place because we are mostly looking into the near future. But if we step back, if we broaden the lens to a 10+ year window things may become clearer.

Let us take the example of the personal computer. The advent of the personal computer in the 1970s lead to a new age of transformation as chips became smaller and faster, extending our ability to understand and interact with the world around with the advent of the mobile phone. It was 10 years ago the 4G finally came into its own and as we look at the immense power of 5G we are now at the cusp of a new revolution in mobile. This ability to extend ourselves is also expanding into the personal device space that allows us to now go increasingly to smart wearable devices. Over time we can expect to see more connected technology in the form of implants, extensions and personal technology that could enrich our ability to interact with, understand and influence the world around us through more seamless and stable connectivity with the digital world. This transition from Narrow AI (AI programmed to perform a single task) to Strong AI (machines that can perform any task that a human can) to Artificial Super Intelligence (AI that surpasses human intelligence) is the one we are now seeing unfold in front of us.

The past decade has seen a beginning of a huge shift in transportation. Electric vehicles are finally becoming mainstream and self-driving is become more and more accepted. Mobility as a service started with companies like Uber offering solution that did not provide a great economic model but lead to the expansion of business in food and other delivery services and increasingly, experiments with autonomous vehicles to transport goods, and in the future, people. Old skills and rites of passages will become obsolete as fleets of driverless cars replace existing methods.

Who needs to deal with the hassle of getting a drivers license or investing in carownership when one can hail a car or ride or vehicle with the click of a button to perform a specific task or errand. It is not too hard to imagine that the future could easily include full fleets of AI powered drones deployed for to deliver goods to the doorstep. Autonomous aerial vehicles (AAVs) are late to the party but can be expected to become a more familiar sight in dense urban areas.

As we look forward it will help us if from time to time we step back and ask ourselves- what are the assumptions we are making in taking a narrow view of the world and what might we be missing


The field of robotics has been slower in maturing to where we see them performing useful tasks in everyday life but that future will become more and more real in the coming decade. It has taken over 10 years for the Boston Dynamics PETMAN (which could barely walk) to evolve to the Atlas robot which uses a compact mobile hydraulic system, custom motors and valves, and a dynamic control system to achieve its human-like moves such as jumping, running, back-flipping and parkour.

This the type of step change that leads to the warning in a recent report by McKinsey that in the next decade automation will put over 51 million jobs at risk(McKinsey Global Institute June 2020 report).

As we look forward it will help us if from time to time we step back and ask ourselves- what are the assumptions we are making in taking a narrow view of the world and what might we be missing. Tectonic shifts don’t happen overnight. Nor do they happen in a continuous undulating process. Disruptions, business model changes are by their nature discontinuous. More and more we see technology move along slowly till the elements of disruptive change line up in one place creating a tidal wave of change. Let’s learn from this as we evaluate the future of our business and the world.

As you go about your annual planning cycle, the key question to ask is “are you casting the future far enough to see where the tectonic shift will happen in your business”?