Advances in technology are a threat to earning an income

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The rise and fall of the human race is an alarm given by the world’s most famous physicist. The same warnings can also be tied to our ability to earn an income.

Stephen Hawking said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation “I think the development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it could take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate.”  

Professor Hawkins made a big splash in Canada when in 2008 he retired from Cambridge University in Britain and accepted a temporary research position at the University of Waterloo, our country’s crown jewel in theoretical physics research,

The recently released movie about his life “The Theory of Everything” was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Picture. Speculation is it will do very well with the Oscars early next year. We suggest you watch the trailer. It is on our must see list.

Change is coming and it will be both good and bad. Everyone will be affected. Careers and earning an income are at risk. Technology is advancing at an alarming rate and we humans are at risk of being rendered obsolete.

“Moore’s Law” was developed by Gordon Moore in the mid-sixties when he predicted that computing hardware power would double every two years, while the cost of doing so would decline. That is precisely what has happened. Machines now do what until recently was considered impossible at a very affordable rate. Great if you benefit. Not so great if it costs you your job. There are plenty examples of this.

Using a smart phone app, Uber.com wants to link individual drivers with a car to those wanting a ride, eliminating the need to use the conventional taxi companies. This is a much better business model for the consumer. It is only possible because of advanced technology.

Airbnb.com wants to link travelers to those wanting to rent their house, condominium or vacation property. Why stay in an expensive hotel when you can get more accommodation for less?

Students from the University of Toronto are working with IBM to develop an artificially intelligent computer that can do legal research in just seconds; a task that would otherwise take a lawyer hundreds of hours. This is just one more example of a human job being automated.

In all three cases the new way of using technology makes an entire industry more efficient and productive. This is a natural evolution except now it is scary fast.

So, how does this affect you the thinking human being? It is in the economics of how each of us attempts to be financially self-sufficient.

During our lifetime we earn money and consider that our way to fill the bucket we call life. We then drain the bucket of wealth to support our desired lifestyle. Money in and money out. All you do is regulate the rate at which you fill up the bucket with earnings and empty the bucket through spending.

Now, think of our example with no income filling up the bucket. Suddenly the arithmetic of life does not work. No money coming in but still a requirement to spend.

To put this risk in proper perspective think of your angst if the value of your investments decreased by 50 per cent. You would hope the loss would be recovered over time but your financial fear would be high.

Now assume your earning power decreased by 100 per cent. You and your skills are obsolete. Your whole life of skill development can now be trumped by a computer chip.

Financially it is beneficial to have a recovery strategy. How can you dodge the bullet called progress? We recommend constantly developing your skills.

The computer chip is starting to chase you and is hoping to soon overtake your ability to earn an income. It is faster than you, but for now you have a head start.

Invest in yourself by updating your skills. Adopt life-long learning and secure your ability to continue to earn an income.

Technology is changing the world. Protect yourself and your ability to earn an income by continuing to upgrade your skills.