Book review: Job-sharing with robots

Book review: Job-sharing with robots

What to do When Machines do Everything: How to get ahead in a world of algorithms, AI and big data by Malcolm Frank, Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring

There has been a lot of discussion and media coverage recently of so-called robo-advice. If you in any way shape or form feel worried, intimidated or even frightened of the advance of robotics and artificial intelligence then do not read this book.

If, on the other hand, you are confident that technology is less a threat, more an enabler, this book is worth reading. It could be argued that the authors, Mssrs Frank, Roehrig and Pring, have a vested interest in unsettling us with their vision of the not-to-distant future. After all, AI, algorithms, bots and big data is their speciality, but the book is actually a positive read.

Instead of being threatened by this new world I found their practical and helpful advice quite optimistic. Rather than massive job losses they predict an increase in jobs; sure, some of the current jobs – mostly manual work – may become redundant, but they will be replaced by new roles.

The authors describe a three-step process in which the labour force will change, roughly 12 per cent of existing jobs are at risk of being taken over by systems of intelligence, 75 per cent of existing jobs will be altered or enhanced by robotics and there will be 13 per cent net new jobs created by the new machines.

The authors identify the skills we will need to remain relevant in the future and it seems to me that some of those are already in abundance among financial planners and advisers. Some key attributes we will all need to work on include analytical thinking, written skills and interpersonal skills.

The book did seem to confirm my view that as far as financial services is concerned we are some way away from robo-advice. Instead what we have is robo-implementation and an example quoted of a South African company seems to offer evidence that this it is about product rather than “advice”.

We may have some years in which to prepare for the "massive build out”, the phase when “innovation moves from the radical fringe to the mainstream”, but there is little doubt we are in that period of a “burst of innovation”. In my view, it is best not to ignore innovative new technology, but ramp up the skills we need to work with it.

Published by John Wiley & Sons

Nick Bamford is a chartered financial planner of Informed Choice