“The AI is progressing much faster than expected” (Olivier Babeau, founding president of the Sapiens Institute and Jean-Christophe Fromantin, Mayor of Neuilly)

We are on the eve of an extraordinary revolution that will disrupt our way of life and our view of the world. Due to artificial intelligence, the place we give to professional activity in our lives is destined to decrease dramatically. Millions of tasks will be replaced. They will be performed by robots and computers. Thousands of professions will change. We will work less and work will be very different from today. This is a long-term trend, always accelerated by scientific progress. It is amplifying. It will change everything: housing, transportation, human relationships… Yet we are not ready. It is urgent to anticipate this shock. Public authorities, businesses, and citizens must grasp the extent of this and adapt their decisions, investments, and structures. It is a matter of mastering our destiny.

The AI revolution is happening much faster than expected

What is it about? All artificial intelligence experts had imagined major changes within a decade, the time it takes for the computing power of computers to progress, and for organizations to take advantage of the emerging technology… The usual reasoning was that of the famous “creative destruction” of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter: when an innovation emerges, young companies seize it, they become prosperous, merge with each other… while old firms decline. The modern ones replace the old ones, in a cycle that seemed predictable to us.

However, the AI ​​revolution is happening much faster than expected. Companies, individuals, and even administrations are integrating it into their daily lives at a very rapid pace. Robots are handling commercial relationships, medical diagnoses, books… Labor is disappearing, time will be freed up. A considerable amount of time! In the mid-19th century, work occupied 70% of life. A hundred years later, it was between 30% and 40%. Today, we are at 12%. And by 2030, we will have reached 10%. It’s tomorrow.

What will we do with these hours, days, and years gained on our schedules? This is a major societal, philosophical, and even anthropological question. We do not claim to answer it in full here. One thing is certain, the meaning of life – and work – will be profoundly changed. In France, in particular, work is often experienced as a constraint and we like to recall its etymology, which evokes suffering. Part of the left sees it as alienation, another as emancipation, and the right has made it a value. It is worth noting that those who staunchly defend work sometimes struggle to accept that machines can avoid the degrading repetition of technical gestures, and the health risks…

These debates were fascinating, they structured social, democratic, and geopolitical life. But they will be swept away by the liberated time. The meaning we give to our relationships with our loved ones, to volunteer activities, to personal leisure… all of that will evolve very quickly. Our place in society will be revisited. Including the physical place where we spend this time. Will we accept being settled near current economic centers, in populated, stressful urban complexes, with long commutes, for so little work time? We do not believe so. We will mutate, in a narrower time frame than we think, towards a new world. A world where we work where we want to live, no longer a world where we live where the job is.

The model of urbanization is probably coming to an end

As an inevitable consequence, the model of urbanization, built since the industrial revolution and rural exodus, is probably coming to an end. Workers will want to live elsewhere. Already, Île-de-France is facing a loss of attractiveness because it does not offer the living conditions that families expect. The great transformation that is coming will cause real estate prices in business centers to fall – it has already begun -, investments in large corporate headquarters will collapse. The shockwave will spread everywhere. As a result, we will have decentralized management places, as close as possible to places of living. This is the model of the future.

Employers are already realizing this, thanks to the decrease in unemployment: they must now convince candidates to come work for them. It is no longer up to the candidates to be convincing to get the job. This inversion of the balance of power is typical of the world that awaits us. We are thus entering a competence-based capitalism. Added value will be based on scarcity, knowing that AI will do the rest. The relationship with precariousness will also change. For an employee, having worked in five companies will be seen as an enriching asset, compared to the one who has stayed in the same place for twenty years. Conversely, a company that is in denial and does not want to see the ongoing shift will be condemned to become performative, that is to exist only by itself and for itself, confusing its means and its end. If it cannot provide meaningful, appreciable or fruitful meaning to its employees, it will lose the best ones and its markets…

Equivalent danger threatens administrations and power. If public policies ignore this transition to the new modernity, they will generate incomprehension and anger. If they remain in their centrality, they will hinder the life projects of those they claim to represent and serve, fueling distrust in democracy. If they continue to be vertical, in a hierarchical logic, they will widen the gap that separates them from the people. The codes have changed, and politics must adapt quickly.

* Author of “La Tyrannie du divertissement,” Buchet-Chastel, February 2023.