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Top China VC Kai-Fu Lee says his prediction that AI will displace 50% of jobs by 2027 is ‘uncannily accurate’



Years before OpenAI’s ChatGPT showed the world what generative artificial intelligence technology could do, venture capitalist Kai-Fu Lee saw AI’s disruptive potential in the labor market.

The chairman and chief executive of Sinovation Ventures predicted in 2017 that AI would be bigger than all of humanity’s previous technology revolutions combined, including electricity and the internet, adding that AI is far more capable than people.

“These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty,” Lee told CNBC at the time, later forecasting that it would happen in the next 10 years.

Fast forward seven years to the Fortune Innovation forum in Hong Kong this past March, when he sat down with Fortune editor-in-chief Alyson Shontell.

With the timeline of his prediction just three years away, she asked him if it still holds, and he replied, “It’s actually uncannily accurate. People have criticized me for being too aggressive in 2017, 2018, 2019, and I was a little nervous at the time. But when gen AI came out, I think everybody’s on the bandwagon and believing that is the correct pace.”

AI will likely eliminate white collar jobs faster than blue collar jobs, Lee added, describing it as a very significant problem that some countries have started realizing needs be to addressed.

When asked what parents should tell their kids about their future careers, he said the first thing people should do is “stop this nonsense about kids are using ChatGPT to cheat.”

The chatbot, which can produce answers in natural language to queries on a range of topics, is another tool, just like Microsoft Word or Abode Photoshop, he argued.

When kids grow up, enter the workforce, and are evaluated on their performance, bosses will look at the end result of their work and not whether they used ChatGPT or Google search, Lee continued.

“We need to encourage people to harness AI and use all the tools so that they can be the best that they can be,” he said. “Also, it’s a great guide to what things they can aspire to and what things are not worth following.”

To be sure, Lee still believes that there is something unique about our humanity, saying people have souls while machines never will. “We have compassion and empathy. We have emotions and the ability to love. We have the ability to connect to other people and create trust and win trust.”

In fact, more than any technical or business skill, the most important skill to have is being able to earn other people’s trust, which comes from authenticity, teamwork, sharing and having a high emotional quotient, he explained.

“Do I think AI can fake it? Yes. Do I think people will accept the faking AI, at least for the next 50 years? No. So that’s long enough for your kids to survive and figure out the next step for their kids,” Lee said.

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