Future tech

Widespread automation tipped to spur 80pc unemployment rate in HK, other major cities by 2030

Expect disruption by financial technology initiatives in traditional international banking centres like Hong Kong, London and New York, says Simon Squibb

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 January, 2017, 3:51pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 February, 2017, 7:23am

Major cities like Hong Kong, London and New York are predicted to face unemployment rates of more than 80 per cent by 2030, when widespread adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics accelerates automation in virtually all industries, according to outspoken Hong Kong-based venture capitalist and angel investor Simon Squibb.

“As hard as it might be for many to believe, there will be no bankers, no accountants and no manned deliveries by 2030,” Squibb told the South China Morning Post. “Robots will be our drivers and a new world order will be in place.”

Squibb said that prediction was based on a range of developments he has closely observed as the founder and chairman of privately held Nest, the pre-eminent technology start-up incubator in Hong Kong.

According to Forrester Research, AI adoption has been steadily growing even though many people are not aware of it.

“AI techniques are in action whenever we use a voice-driven virtual assistant, use a digital camera, allow an online utility to tag our photographs, or receive recommendations about what we might want to watch,” Forrester analysts Martha Bennett and Matthew Guarini said in a report this month. “Well-publicised success stories, such as Google’s DeepMind Technologies beating a professional Go player or IBM Watson for Oncology supporting clinicians, highlight the potential for AI.”

Research firm IDC forecast annual investments in cognitive systems and AI to reach US$18.2 billion by 2020, led by the banking, retail, healthcare and manufacturing industries.

Squibb said there are AI systems that can predict rudimentary health issues faster than humans, and that robo-advisors – automated, algorithm-based online services – have already replaced many human jobs in private wealth management operations.

“Unemployment rates of more than 80 per cent does not seem possible right now, but this might happen sooner,” Squibb said.

Financial technology initiatives are widely expected to disrupt traditional operations in international banking centres like Hong Kong, London and New York.

Machines will struggle with the nuances of creativity, so this would be a good vocation to pursue in 2030
Simon Squibb, founder and chief executive, Nest

According to an Accenture survey released this month, seven in 10 consumers around the world are willing to exclusively use computer-generated, robo-advisory services for their retail banking, insurance and retirement planning needs in future.

Advances in AI are also helping push forward the research, development and application of robots.

Chinese online search giant Baidu, for example, declared last year that it aims to lead the commercial application of AI for autonomous driving on the mainland, the world’s largest car market.

It plans to get self-driving cars on roads by next year and support mass production of these vehicles in 2020.

Squibb said the concept of unemployment in 13 years will be different, as people take on new occupations. “Machines will struggle with the nuances of creativity, so this would be a good vocation to pursue in 2030,” he said.

“The world’s oceans and air quality should see marked improvement by that time, while healthcare would be more affordable,” he added.