The media’s buzzing this year about the coming artificial intelligence revolution and how it will impact U.S. jobs. Robots of varying shapes and sizes have graced the covers of nearly every business and technology publication, and experts are weighing in on the threats and opportunities.
But there has been little discussion in popular media about how AI and automation will impact emerging markets. To learn more about the issue, we spoke with Bertrand Guillotin, the Fox School’s International Business program’s academic director and an assistant professor of instruction.
Fox’s International Business program was recently ranked No. 1 in North America and No. 2 in the world for research by the University of Texas, Dallas Business School Research Rankings, and it is one of the Top 15 International Business programs according to U.S. News & World Report. The program’s research is published in the Journal of International Business Studies, and it includes three Academy of International Business (AIB) fellows (Charles Dhanaraj, Masaaki Kotabe, and Ram Mudambi).
Since one of the hot research topics in international business today is the rise of automation and how emerging markets are positioning themselves for it, we asked Guillotin to share some insight.
Is there a particular emerging market you find especially interesting, in that it exemplifies some of the big changes happening with the global economy?
Take China, for example, because there are widespread changes happening there. The economy is trying to get away from an export based model; they are trying to change to a consumption based, more robust national economy. They have to be leaders in all kinds of industries to do that, including green technologies—though they are the number one global polluter—and they have to be strong in all the value-added industries. If you look at Dalian Wanda, which purchased AMC Theaters a few years ago, they are strong in entertainment and real estate; they understand the importance of diversification in our global economy.
There has been a lot of recent talk about how AI and automation will impact the U.S. workforce, but we don’t hear much about how other countries, like China, are responding to this possibility.
China could lose 50% of their manufacturing jobs in the foreseeable future, maybe the next 10 years, due to automation and AI. If you talk to partners at KPMG, who are responsible for forecasting what trends are going to catch traction beyond the hype, they’ll tell you it’s still too expensive to put AI and automation in place on a large scale. It’s happening, yes, but it’s not impacting all the jobs the same way. Low-skill jobs will be automated, and we’ve been doing that for centuries already. We do things on a daily basis that are not value-added, but if those things are automated, we benefit because we can focus our brain power on something else. It is a huge question for China, because if they automate too many jobs, they may destroy their national economy. But I don’t think they’ll do that. The cost-benefit analysis has to be made and they will make it.
Is AI and automation a popular topic for international business students?
Yes, issues like this are what make our International Business program very attractive. We have these discussions and we reconcile the different positions. We explain what they need to know to be successful in a world that’s always changing very quickly. We launched the International Business minor last year and we’re now attracting students from six different colleges at Temple, including liberal arts, science and technology, media and communication, and so on. We’re expecting more than 100 students in the minor this year. It’s an exciting time to study international business and our increased enrollment and rankings show that.
For our students, we need to be very clear that they need to keep working hard to stay on top of the game. Beyond their degrees, and beyond graduation, they need to keep educating themselves and keep acquiring skills that cannot be automated. If you stay on top of your skill requirements and continue to train and grow and learn, even if you are in manufacturing, you can survive. But if you just look at the status quo and think the U.S. has been on top of the global economy for decades and that will never change, that’s not going to work. The U.S. has a good chance to stay competitive, but we have to be serious and work together.