|Insights from Winston & Strawn|
Artificial intelligence, technological innovation, and automation continue to create realignments in businesses nationwide and around the world. What’s being billed as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” may be upon us as experts note that “nearly half of the tasks currently undertaken by humans could already be automated.” It’s not an unfamiliar scene in New York and around the country where employees of fast-food chains train customers on how to use touch screens for ordering, thereby teaching their way out of employment. Factory floors formerly teeming with mechanics and human labor are now filled with machines. The replacement and realignment are only starting.
Last month, Netflix released a documentary, “American Factory,” outlining the flow of capital returning from China to the U.S. at a former General Motors plant turned glass manufacturing factory. The complicated politics and real-world financial demands of productivity and output are on full display as the documentary on a small scale profiles a future where workers’ interests, unions, profitability, and automation meet and are forced to reconcile across the U.S. and around the world.
From a financial standpoint, automation and artificial intelligence are in vogue and are fast becoming a booming industry. Venture capital is flooding towards companies experimenting with artificial intelligence and tech innovation. Over the past four years, estimates indicate Chinese AI startups received $6.1 billion in funding and U.S. AI startups received more than $3.6 billion. This week, Forbes profiled and ranked 50 companies currently employing some mechanism of machine learning in their businesses, ranging from self-driving shuttles to reading, analyzing, and monetizing emotions to cleaning data collection for streamlined information storage.
Politically, in the U.S., Democratic presidential candidates have been addressing automation and artificial intelligence on the campaign trail. Candidate and businessman Andrew Yang has made a $1,000 universal basic income (“UBI”) a pillar of his presidential bid and while other presidential hopefuls have expressed skepticism about UBI, many during debates and on the trail have indicated that technological innovation may require significant labor realignment in the coming decade.
The nexus of privacy, efficiency, and economics is an important topic for debate and financial consideration. As The Wall Street Journal highlights in a video below (linked here), some Chinese companies are using artificial intelligence in classrooms to gauge students’ attentiveness, much to the skepticism of some students. Companies worldwide are currently enveloped in an ongoing debate on where the guardrails are on collecting and sharing data about individuals balanced against profitability and technological growth.