Kai Fu Lee, an artificial intelligence (AI) expert, venture capitalist, and former executive of such companies as Apple, Microsoft, and Google, tells Scott Pelley of “60 Minutes” in an interview airing Sunday night on CBS News that he believes AI will displace 40 percent of the jobs out there — jobs not exclusive to blue-collar work — across the globe in as little as 15 years.
The native of Taipei, Taiwan, and the Columbia University and Carnegie Melon graduate goes into detail about his claims in his “60 Minutes” interview airing Sunday at 7 p.m. ET.
“AI will increasingly replace repetitive jobs, not just for blue-collar work, but a lot of white-collar work,” Lee tells Pelley on the program, as CBS News reported in advance.
“Chauffeurs, truck drivers, anyone who does driving for a living — their jobs will be disrupted more in the 15 to 20-year time frame. Many jobs that seem a little bit complex, chef, waiter, a lot of things will become automated … stores … restaurants, and altogether in 15 years, that’s going to displace about 40 percent of the jobs in the world.”
Lee is CEO of Sinovation Ventures and is considered one of the “world’s foremost experts” on artificial intelligence.
Pelley pushed back on the claim of 40 percent — and Lee said the jobs will be “displaceable.”
The China-based venture capitalist claims the world is in for an immense and swift societal makeover.
“I believe [AI] is going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind. More than electricity,” he said.
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Many disruptors, including Elon Musk, have long warned of the potential dangers of mass automation, citing possible community transformation and the disproportionate affects on low-income workers, as Fortune reported last year.
Many experts also believe humans will begin to adjust accordingly, seeking out new opportunities revolving around AI and technology in general.
Professional predictions of AI and its affects are of a mixed nature — both inspiring and daunting, as a piece in Inc.com noted.
Lee addressed some of this when asked how society will be influenced.
“Well, in some sense, there is the human wisdom that always overcomes these technological revolutions,” he said. “The invention of the steam engine, the sewing machine, electricity, have all displaced jobs. We’ve gotten over it. The challenge of AI is this 40 percent, whether it is [in] 15 or 25 years, is coming faster than the previous revolutions.”
In his new book, “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order,” Lee examines AI’s unprecedented developments, the responsibility of a rapidly advancing China as well as the U.S., and overall, the most significant impending changes in human history.
CBS News noted that Pelley traveled to China for the story — where “70 percent of the 1.4 billion Chinese use smartphones, often to make routine transactions including fast food purchases, bike rentals and bill paying. The phone use creates a torrent of data for China’s tech companies. Lee explained that endless supply of information is the rocket fuel for AI in China.”
“China clearly has an advantage,” Lee said in regard to artificial intelligence.
The United States retains technological leadership “that will keep it competitive with the Chinese, at least for the near future,” a CBS News piece noted.
“The top prominent researchers are still mostly American, so I think it’s about 50/50 for the next five years,” Lee tells Pelley in the interview.