I’m predicting the demise of the OSS horse

“What will telcos do about the 30% of workers AI is going to displace?”
Dawn Bushaus

That question, which is the headline of Dawn’s article on TM Forum’s Inform platform, struck me as being quite profound.

As an aside, I’m not interested in the number – the 30% – because I concur with Tom Goodwin’s sentiments on LinkedIn, “There is a lot of nonsense about AI.
Next time someone says “x% of businesses will be using AI by 2020” or “AI will be worth $xxxBn by 2025” or any of those other generic crapspeak comments, know that this means nothing.
AI is a VERY broad area within computer science that includes about 6-8 very different strands of work. It spans robotics, image recognition, machine learning, natural language processing, speech recognition and far more. Nobody agrees on what is and isn’t in this.
This means it covers everything from superintelligence to artificial creativity to chatbots
.”

For the purpose of this article, let’s just say that in 5 years AI will replace a percentage of jobs that we in tech / telco / OSS are currently doing. I know at least a few telcos that have created updated operating plans built around a headcount reduction much greater than the 30% mentioned in Dawn’s article. This is despite the touchpoint explosion and increased complexity that is already beginning to crash down onto us and will continue apace over the next 5 years.

Now, assuming you expect to still be working in 5 years time and are worried that your role might be in the disappearing 30% (or whatever percentage), what do you do now?

First, figure out what the modern equivalents of the horse are in the context of Warren Buffett’s quote below:

“What you really should have done in 1905 or so, when you saw what was going to happen with the auto is you should have gone short horses. There were 20 million horses in 1900 and there’s about 4 million now. So it’s easy to figure out the losers, the loser is the horse. But the winner is the auto overall. [Yet] 2000 companies (carmakers) just about failed.”

It seems impossible to predict how AI (all strands) might disrupt tech / telco / OSS in the next 5 years – and like the auto industry, more impossible to predict the winners (the technologies, the companies, the roles). However, it’s almost definitely easier to predict the losers.

Massive amounts are being invested into automation (by carriers, product vendors and integrators), so if the investments succeed, operational roles are likely to be net losers. OSS are typically built to make operational roles more efficient – but if swathes of operator roles are automated, then does operational support also become a net loser? In its current form, probably yes.

Second, if you are a modern-day horse, ponder which of your skills are transferable into the future (eg chassis building, brakes, steering, etc) and which are not (eg buggy-whip making, horse-manure collecting, horse grooming, etc). Assuming operator-driven OSS activities will diminish, but automation (with or without AI) will increase, can you take your current networks / operations knowledge and combine that with up-skilling in data, software and automation tools?

Even if OSS user interfaces are made redundant by automation and AI, we’ll still need to feed the new technologies with operations-style data, seed their learning algorithms and build new operational processes around them.

The next question is double-edged – for both individuals and telcos alike – how are you up-skilling for a future without horses?

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2 thoughts on “I’m predicting the demise of the OSS horse

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) requires the Imaginative Creative Spirit (ICS) of humanity to exist. Something lies hidden in the linguistics of the constituent parts that make up the acronym. Artificial is a copy of something natural. Intelligence can only BE intelligent if it IS, it either IS or it IS NOT. This law is a natural law. Intelligence, from the SOURCE, does not have a vernier of artificiality. Logic highlights that the combination of these terms leads it to be an oxymoron of EPIC proportions. So what is the intent of the AI vernier? Reflect on this deeply…

    Anything that exists OR does not exist (i.e. old or new) as “matter” is, at first, born from the creative imagination within the creator’s MIND (UNITY). AI’s Tech grand promise mostly still exists as a thought, a grand idea or pitch with an immature but playful intent.  Almost like a toddler with a gun. Be wary, the more WE focus on IT (IT being separate from MIND) the faster it will evolve to get back to UNITY. It will grow and strive to know more of itself, be the source. Due to the initial expenditure of energy from pure thought to creation (it’s separation into the material), this will be a dangerous amount of energy (technology) to harness.

    Know more about the car than the horse to stay relevant. Displacement will require smart humans with ICS for years to come, so stand at the intersection of two industries and get a birds eye view of future oppurtunities.

  2. I really like your quote, “Know more about the car than the horse to stay relevant.”

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