Automation could lead to an economic singularity. Here's how finance leaders can begin to prepare now.

Automation could lead to what's known as an economic singularity, argues Calum Chace in his book "Surviving AI: The Promise and Perils of Artificial Intelligence." This second installment in a three-part series on must-read books for finance leaders looks the takeaways of Chace's argument for finance leaders.

Defining Singularity

Chace defines an economic singularity as the moment when AI "renders most of us unemployed, and indeed unemployable, because our jobs have been automated."

He goes on to explain that borrowed from math and physics, the term "singularity" refers to "a point where the normal rules cease to apply, and what lies beyond is unknowable to anyone this side of the event horizon." While an economic singularity could precipitate a dystopian world where a "technological authoritarian regime" rules over the masses, it could also bring forth "an economy of radical abundance" where jobs and work as we know it are a thing of the past, liberating us to pursue whatever we want.

It's the uncertainty of the outcome that has experts — and should have finance leaders — paying close attention.

What Finance Leaders Should Consider

Opinions differ on how automation will impact employment. Oxford University predicts that almost half of all jobs are at risk of automation in the next 20 years, while others consider this point of view to be alarmist, seeing automation instead as a helper technology that can free workers to focus on creative, value-add work. Either way, there are several points for finance leaders to consider.

How are your investments in AI impacting your workforce?

AI can help speed up business processes and capture efficiencies in a supportive capacity for your staff.

Which jobs and workers at risk of automation?

Even in the rosiest view of automation, businesses must be realistic about the fact that workers will be impacted. Identify those individuals and consider how they might be retrained for new roles.

What are the potential long-term implications of AI on your business?

Chace advocates taking a long strategic view: "Keep an eye out for the approach of this economic transformation, review the different ways to turn it to our advantage and work out how to avoid the negative scenarios."

AI can improve your organization's economic performance and have long-term implications for your workforce. Strategically looking at the full range of possibilities puts you in a better position to make AI investments and move toward the future.

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