Thanks to something called "wild information," cognitive thinking and our ability to evolve and adapt to new situations there will be a need for humans in a future of faster, stronger, and in some cases meaner machines that will eliminate the need for a few but not all positions. At least that was the message at the Sifma Financial Services Technology Forum and Expo in New York this week.
The good news is that despite our growing reliance on technology, IT experts believe there will be jobs even though technology will be faster, store more data, crunch more numbers and provide more intelligent analysis of unstructured data. The bad news is that continued uncertainty has many financial companies waiting to hire until unresolved rules in the Dodd Frank legislation are settled and there's a clearer picture of where and what those jobs will be.
One thing is certain according to an IT futurist speaking at a session aptly titled Future Technology Trends in the Financial Services Arena. "Job security will be job adaptability," said Daniel Burrus, Technology Futurist and Business Strategist.
Burrus sees financial services as going through a "transformational change" that will "eliminate some jobs and create others. Some of us will need career coaches to teach us how to deal with the changes," he added, and that to remain employed "we'll have to evolve, grow, learn and re-learn as we go through the process."
According to Burrus, there are two types of trends, hard trends that will happen and soft trends that could happen. "Technology is full of hard trends," says Burrus. "We're certain that there will be faster chips and there will be more storage and over the next five years we're to transform how we sell, how we communicate, how we market, and how we analyze."
Burris says one conclusion we can draw from this is that in the future, "technology should not be seen as an eliminator that can replace us in the workplace but enablers that will allow us to do more."
Another technology guru warned about the danger of relying too much on machines, especially when it comes to deciding what data needs to be stored and what data doesn't.
Ali Mostashari, PhD, Program Director, Infrastructure Systems, and Associated Professor, Stevens Institute of Technology told the conference we're going to "have a paradigm shift in the way we look at information."
He pointed out that we now create every two days as much information as we created from the dawn of civilization until 2003. "In ten years, with this exponential increase in data our storage capacity will be tested," said Mostashari. "We'll need to concern ourselves with information that never gets stored or what we call 'wild information.'
"There will come a time," says Mostashari, "when we'll have to decide what information needs to get stored and what doesn't and this requires judgment. Given the fact that we won't have the time to make this judgment, machines will have to make the judgments for us. Ultimately we'll have some loss where we shouldn't have because computers still have a way to go in becoming more cognitive in how to understand content in context. The human brain does this by filling in gaps with non-existent data and "wild information" as part of its cognitive abilities, and computers are not very strong in that."
Mostashari concluded saying that when we look at the future, we should think about these three technological trends, "more intelligent storage, more intelligent processing, and more intelligent communication."
New Wave of Computing
Nagui Halim is Information Management Director, Infosphere Streams Research Scientist, Computer Science for the IBM Software Group. Halim believes we're entering a new wave of computing. "The first wave was the book keeping phase in which computers kept track of pretty much everything whether it was order books, or trades it did everything very quickly and mostly accurately. Then came the wave of the digital artifact, with wave files and mp3 files that spawned an industry of all kinds of communication method and devices. And the next phase which is starting now and has amazing implications for the financial services industry and society in general is this phase of machines watching the world very carefully."
He added that IBM has been working on the concept of a universal platform for observing the digital world. "It's a conjecture of mine that in the next five years we'll see systems that can absorb, judge and process all information and draw some pretty amazing conclusions," said Halim. "They'll look for security intrusions in real time, the look for trading patterns for major and macro trends. This will change how many industries work. It will change how health care is delivered in hospitals. It will change the notion of cyber-security and security. It will have surveillance systems that are much more intelligent. This is one area where machines will be able to do better than people can. They'll be better than traders at trading because they can absorb all kinds of data from hundreds of sources as well as news and information, current events, crises, analytics, even tweets."