Robots are likely to replace 50 percent of all jobs in the next decade, according to Kai-Fu Lee, founder of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures and a top voice on tech in China.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the wave of the future, the influential technologist told CNBC, calling it the “singular thing that will be larger than all of human tech revolutions added together, including electricity, [the] industrial revolution, internet, mobile internet — because AI is pervasive.”
“It is the decision engine that will replace people,” Lee said, adding that AI capabilities far exceed those of humanity.
For example, he said, companies in which his firm has invested can accomplish feats such as recognizing 3 million faces at the same time, or dispersing loans in eight seconds.
“These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50 percent of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty,” Lee said, later adding that he expected that displacement to occur in the next 10 years.
Lee’s views on technology are widely followed in part because he previously headed Google China before founding his venture capital firm. He has also held executive posts at many other major tech companies, including Apple and Microsoft, and he has celebrity status in the industry and in China — with millions of social media followers on multiple platforms.
Speaking with CNBC from the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, Lee tackled the big question: Will human still have a place in the world as machines grow more intelligent?
The answer, he said, is that nothing can replace human-to-human interaction.
“Touching one’s heart with your heart is something that machines, I believe, will never be good at,” he said, explaining that service jobs should be considered “first-class” employment.
And while all of this change is happening, traditional companies like banks, insurance firms and hospitals, are simply moving to slow, Lee said. And it’s too bad, he added, because they “possess the biggest treasure” in the form of troves of data.
“Because AI is about taking data into insight and decision, so I anticipate [the] internet sector, entrepreneurial sector, to continue to grow and in many cases displace and even wipe out traditional companies in China,” he said.
Chinese tech tycoons like Tencent and Alibaba, for instance, have forged the way in mobile payments — it’s become pervasive for consumers to pay for everything from rent to transportation through mobile wallets and transfers. Meanwhile, China’s giant state-owned banks are just barely starting to catch on, Lee said.