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BRAND VIEW: Innovation versus unemployment

Information and Education

In the past 10-20 years, a massive increase in mobile computer processing power changed the way the world consumes and digests information. More and more people around the globe have access to education, almost in real-time. People in the East can see how people in the West live. Lifestyles of people in the Northern hemisphere are visible to people living in the South. Being exposed to different lifestyles has led to changes in the needs of people worldwide.

Automation as a megatrend

Bloomberg and Pictet Group estimate the global market size of advanced robotics to increase from approx. USD 19 billion in 2015 to more than USD 50 billion by 2025. This will in most scenarios go hand in hand with a reduction of available jobs for human workers. In a 2013 study, McKinsey Global Institute underlines that artificial intelligence, which fuels advanced robotics, will transform the global society at a speed that is ten times faster and a scale that is 300 times larger than what happened during the Industrial Revolution. Today, we can hardly imagine what will become a possible standard. Self-driving cars/vehicles are just the very beginning.


With this massive shift from human input factors to Artificial Intelligence and mechatronics driven input factors, unemployment will become an increasing problem we as a society and our political leaders need to deal with. The increased level of education and the increased availability of insights about others’ lifestyles through social media, might actually bear an explosive potential if combined with an increasing level of unemployment.

Can this mega trend be reversed?

Often, I hear people say we need to “regulate” the use of Artificial Intelligence and Robots and Automation. “We need to protect people from losing their jobs”. I do firmly believe that this is the wrong approach. In fact, we need to embrace the new technologies, the accelerated access to information and the increased level of education around the globe.

Going back to the industrial revolution which was kick-started in the 15th century by Johannes Guttenberg’s work on the printing press it is evident that this innovation has replaced the human workforce in the book production value chain, but it has in return enabled the industrial revolution by enabling more people to have access to written education and information. Centuries later we are facing the same scenario – however at a much higher pace – information generation and consumption are changing dramatically.

At the same time, this opens new opportunities for people to generate value and income. We need brave people that embrace this change and dedicate their times to founding new businesses with new business models. We need governments who are visionary enough to understand that significant investments now in the start-up industry will secure our living in the future. The Middle East has a great history of innovation, and it is time now to pick up this history again and to build our future. For the sake of our children.

Muhammad Chbib is a McKinsey alumnus and has been an Online CEO in the MENA region since 2011, currently heading Tajawal which has emerged as the leading Online Travel Platform from the MENA region for the MENA region. For more information: www.tajawal.com

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