Have you met Robear? Robear is a Japanese robot being developed by Riken-SRK to care for the elderly. Currently 20% of Japan’s population is 65 or older – and the country faces the very real prospect of not having enough young workers to care for the old. According to the Pew Research Center, in America only 13% of the population is over age 65, but expect that to double by 2050. With respect to demographics, society has been much more focused on overpopulation over the past 50 years, but what if the real problem is population decline?
The trend is toward diminishing birth rates in Asia, Europe and the United States. Birth rates are declining below the 2.1 live births per woman replacement rate. In Germany, they’re around 1.36, Spain 1.48 and Italy 1.4. Russia and China are looking at their populations potentially declining by half. What about America? The overall birth rate is a mere 646 per 1000 women. You don’t have to be a demographer to realize that’s simply not enough to sustain our population.
What does this mean for humanity? It is commonplace to talk about AI putting people out of jobs, with plenty of forums, conferences, and news articles on the subject. But what about the specter of not having enough people to do those jobs in the first place? Among the myriad social implications of population decline, one of them is that we’re losing our workforce. Who will stock the groceries, grow the food supply, haul the garbage, or deliver the mail? Who will care for our increasing population of elders with no young people to replace them? And let’s not forget, we’re seeing large increases in the proportion of young people who will require care throughout their life because of various conditions.
Consider the contributions AI is making to healthcare. A team of Stanford researchers harnessed AI to detect skin cancer moles as accurately as a dermatologist. Melanomas represent fewer than 5% of all skin malignancies, yet they account for a majority of deaths related to this form of cancer. If detected early, the survival rate for melanoma is 99%. Imagine how many people could benefit from early detection.
It is time to put AI into perspective. Forget about AI being the problem; AI can offer tools to enable people to work more efficiently and intelligently. We must learn to collaborate with AI, not fear it. Developments in AI can create opportunities and products for us to provide better care to those in need. At Greyfeather we're focused on what AI can do for investing, however, I believe AI will enable humanity to prosper in a number of areas given the challenges ahead.
In Kevin Kelly's TED talk on the future of AI, he makes a compelling argument. He believes that AI can bring about a second Industrial Revolution. The future is not about AI undermining humanity, it's about humanity harnessing and collaborating with AI to do more and be more.