PALM DESERT, Calif.— During this year’s U.S. presidential race, there was a lot of chatter about the loss of jobs, sparked in part by what president-elect Donald Trump described as bad trade deals.
And while there’s a potential job apocalypse looming on the horizon, this one is not so much sparked by trade as by automation.
That has LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, who runs the largest business-oriented social network on the planet with more than 450 million users, a bit concerned.
Here’s what Weiner, who is in the process of selling LinkedIn to Microsoft for $26 billion, had to say about the future of work and jobs at the EY Strategic Growth Forum on Thursday afternoon. The picture Weiner paints is a bit terrifying, and one he hopes society starts to grabble with as it enters a new industrial revolution in which the analog, digital and biological worlds combine.
“Whether its robots, whether its AI, whether its drone technologies or capabilities, there are going to be a fair number of jobs displaced. And, unlike the previous three industrial revolutions, this one, and to some extent the third, the pace of innovation is accelerating. And, to a large extent, it is accelerating faster than people can make sense of it. It is certainly accelerating faster than we can retrain and reskill the workforce to take advantage of the new opportunities being created and to retrain the folks that are being displaced. And that is going to create some real challenges.
And, I think it is really exciting to see what the new technologies can bring in terms of productivity and improving our quality of our lives on a global basis, but I hope and wish that every time there’s an article talking about how a factory is going to be deploying robots and displacing 10,000 or 20,000 workers or a major retail establishment will move and invest in drone capabilities that potentially displaces people in their warehouses — for every time we talk about that and celebrate the innovation — I really hope we focus on what is happening to the people being displaced. How are they going to be retrained? Where are there jobs available for people like that?
And increasingly this is the role we see for ourselves at LinkedIn. By virtue of our access to data and what we call the economic graph, this digital mapping of the global economy across multiple dimensions. Ideally, we are in a position, and hopefully others can leverage this capability or utilize other platforms, to identify — for any given locality in the world — the fastest growing jobs, the skills required to obtain those jobs, and the aggregate skills of the people in that local workforce, the size of that gap and then where that gap is becoming prohibitively large to offer to vocational training facilities, junior colleges and perhaps even 4-year universities the data, so they can create just-in-time curriculums, so they can train people for the jobs that are and will be, not just for the jobs that once were. I think it is incumbent upon all of us to increasingly invest in making that possible.”
While Weiner noted that artificial intelligence seems to be the buzzword of the day in tech, he said it is “very real.”
“This idea that machines, algorithms, can be increasingly trained to do that kind of work faster at far greater scale to create more value, to create more relevancy than we have ever seen before, I think it is absolutely imperative that everyone understands what is going to be possible in their specific industry or domain as a result of technologies like this,” he said.