Reinvention in the age of AI

Reinvention in the age of AI

In 2018, robot density per worker was the highest in Germany, Korea and Singapore. Yet the employment rate in all of those countries remains high despite the prevalence of robots.


Change is inevitable. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 B.C., said, “You never step in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and you’re not the same person.” Humanity has been striving to reshape the world for the better since the beginning of time. The earliest tools mankind invented were shaped out of stone. The latest ones are shaped from technology. Every innovation we create seems to inspire twin currents of fascination and fear — fascination with how it will advance our society and fear that it will render us obsolete. Consider these examples from a recent World Bank report:

  • In the late 1500s, Queen Elizabeth I refused to grant a patent to the inventor of the knitting machine, fearing it would deprive her subjects of work. It was the first major stage in the mechanization of the textile industry which later led to the Industrial Revolution.
  • In the 1880s, the Qing dynasty fiercely opposed constructing railways in China, arguing that the loss of luggage-carrying jobs might lead to social turmoil. Today, trains in China move 54% of domestic trade by train, more than any other major country.
  • In 2018, robot density per worker was the highest in Germany, Korea and Singapore. Yet the employment rate in all of those countries remains high despite the prevalence of robots.

The only constant is reinvention

In the economic game of survival of the fittest, reinvention is a constant theme. Where would Samsung be today if it still sold dried fish? True reinvention impacts both an industry’s businesses as well as its individual participants. For example, Uber is often mentioned as an example of an industry disruptor that displaced jobs for incumbent taxi drivers. However, a recent analysis of Uber’s impact on U.S. cities showed that Uber not only increased the number of jobs for drivers by 50% on average, but the wages for Uber drivers were about 10% higher.

The same is true for technological progress — while it does disrupt the way things were done in the past, it also opens the door for new opportunities and skills. For example, instead of hiring traditional loan officers, a leading fintech platform in China created more than 3,000 data analysis jobs to sharpen algorithms for digitized lending, according to the World Bank Group report. In the manufacturing sector, GE is advancing its own digital transformation by enabling employees to learn the skills needed for future jobs through its “Brilliant Learning” program. In fact, ManpowerGroup reported that 87% of employers across 44 countries plan to upskill their workforce to fill talent gaps. And, for those willing to take the reinvention plunge, there’s a rich array of free education on AI from universities, corporations and massive open online courses, such as Udemy, Coursera and edX.

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Equinix, Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX) operates a global interconnection platform of more than 200 International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers in 52 markets in the Americas, EMEA, and Asia-Pacific. Our mission is to protect, connect and power the digital economy.
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