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January 16, 2019

AI to Displace 40% of World’s Jobs, Predicts ‘Oracle of AI’

Alex Woodie

(Source: 60 Minutes)

Artificial intelligence will displace 40% of jobs, predicted Chinese AI expert Kai-Fu Lee, who was dubbed the “Oracle of AI” by “60 Minutes” this week. Lee also said that China is on the cusp of surpassing Silicon Valley in technological supremacy.

“AI will increasingly replace repetitive jobs, not just blue collar work but a lot of white collar work,” Lee told CBS News‘ correspondent Scott Pelley in a broadcast that aired Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

“Chauffeurs, truck drivers — anybody who does driving for a living, their jobs will be disrupted more in the 15-to-20 year timeframe,” Lee continued. “And many jobs that seem a little complex – chef, waiter – lot of things will be automated. We’ll have automated stores and automated restaurants. And altogether here in 15 years, that’s going to displace about 40% of jobs in the world.”

Lee is the CEO and co-founder of Sinovation Ventures, a Beijing-based venture capital firm that has backed more than 140 AI startups since it was founded in 2009. The company, which has about $2 billion under management, has backed 10 billion-dollar AI startups, and even has a few worth more than $10 billion, Lee told Pelley.

The venture capital firm has invested aggressively in startups using deep learning and neural networking techniques to solve challenging problems. For example, Face++, one of the companies that’s received funding from Lee’s firm, uses AI technology to develop facial recognition software that can depict a person’s mood somewhat accurately.

(Source: 60 Minutes)

Advances in AI are moving quickly, and hold the potential to shake up the world order, even if most people don’t know about it, Lee said. “I think most people have no idea [what AI can do] and many people have the wrong idea,” he told Pelley. “I believe it’s going to change the world more than anything in the history of mankind — even more than electricity.”

Before co-founding Sinovation Ventures, Lee was a much-sought-after executive for American Web giants. After getting his PhD from Carnegie Mellon, Lee headed up speech recognition research at Apple, and was head of interactive media at Silicon Graphics. Lee was instrumental in starting the Microsoft Research division in Beijing, but was lured to Google soon thereafter with a $2.5 million signing bonus and a $10-million-a-year compensation package. That moved triggered litigation with Microsoft, which accused Lee of violating his non-compete agreement.

Lee sees the center of gravity in the technology world shifting east. In his 2018 book “AI Super-Powers: China, Silicon Valley and the New World Order,” Lee makes the case that China’s investments in AI will result in China displacing Silicon Valley as the epicenter of AI innovation.

“Silicon Valley has been the single epicenter of the world technology innovation when it comes to internet, computers, mobile and AI,” Lee said. “But in the recent five years, we’re seeing the Chinese AI is getting to be almost as good as Silicon Valley AI. And I think Silicon Valley is not quite aware of it yet.”

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