- Claro Cortes IV/Reuters
In an interview with CNBC’s Sara Eisen on Tuesday, Greg Creed, the CEO of Yum Brands, the owner of KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, spoke about how he sees technological innovation developing over the next decade or two, and how his industry has already seen changes.
“I’m not sure we’re going to have, you know, robots replacing people soon. Though, to be fair, I was in Shanghai just recently at a new Pizza Hut concept store and I was greeted by a robot. And a robot actually greeted me at the door, took me to my table,” he told CNBC. He added that he is impressed by artificial intelligence (AI) in general, and the IBM’s Watson computer system, in particular.
“And so, I think it’s the beginning of robotics, but I don’t see it wholesaling – the wholesale sense changing people’s jobs in the short-term. We’re not going to be driving cars. We’re not going to be – I mean, think about how Amazon is developing and how machines are now telling Amazon to deliver the goods,” he continued. “I think one of the key questions is what are we as humans going to do in the next 10 or 20 years? What will be we doing as humans?”
His comments were in contrast with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s from last week, who in an interview with Axios’ Mike Allen said he is not overly worried about AI affecting American jobs.
Concerns about AI and jobs are so far way “it’s not even on our radar screen… 50-100 more years” away, Mnuchin said, according to Axios. “I’m not worried at all” about robots displacing humans in the near future, he added, before saying, “In fact, I’m optimistic.”
When asked about Mnuchin’s 50-100 year projection, Creed said he would disagree with that forecast.
“I believe, having listened to people in the artificial intelligence area – and we’re starting to work with them in that area – I think that is way too long. I think it’s going to happen – I don’t think it is going to happen next year or the year after, but I do believe that probably by the mid ’20s to the late ’20s, you’ll start to see a dramatic change in sort of how machines sort of run the world,” he said.
Creed is not alone is thinking along those lines.
In a paper published in 2013, Oxford University’s Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne looked at which current jobs are susceptible to technological innovations such as machine learning, and estimated the probability that the 702 different occupations they looked at will be computerized. They found that about 47% of total US employment is in the high risk category, which the team defined as jobs they expect could be automated “relatively soon, perhaps over the next decade or two.”
They also included a chart in their paper showing the probability of computerization for a given job versus the number of people employed in that job:
- Michael Osborne and Carl Benedikt Frey/Oxford University
High-skill jobs under the categories of “management, business, and financial,” “healthcare practitioners and technical,” and “computer, engineering, and science” saw lower likelihoods of automation, while “service,” “sales and related,” “transportation and material moving,” and “office and administrative support” have higher probabilities.
One particularly notable detail is that many of the jobs that are highly susceptible to computerization are in the services sector, which has seen the most job growth over the past few decades as the US has transitioned from a manufacturing-based economy to a services-based one.
We are already beginning to see that automation of service jobs in real-time. As an example of a low-skill service sector job getting automated, we can look at Panera Bread, a fast-casual restaurant chain, which has started replacinghuman cashiers with kiosks.