Ron Baker: Welcome. We have an incredible guest today, really excited about. We have Daniel Susskind on the line, and he is the author, along with his father, Richard Susskind, of a book that literally was just published called “The Future of the Professions - How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts.”
Daniel welcome to the Soul of Enterprise.
Daniel Susskind: Thank you very much, it's great to be with you.
Ron Baker: You're a lecturer of economics at Balliol College, in Oxford. You teach and research. You have two degrees in economics, is that right?
Daniel Susskind: That's right yes.
Ron Baker: You previously worked in the British Government in the prime minister's strategy unit and the policy unit in 10 Downing Street? Did you work in the nudge unit?
Daniel Susskind: Funny, I worked alongside the nudge unit, they were my colleagues. I was there in the early days of the founding of the nudge unit actually.
Ron Baker: Oh wow.
Daniel Susskind: It emerged out of the strategy unit, which I was part of, and then because of it's success, it became a unit in its own right. A lot of that team are good friends of mine.
Ron Baker: Has it overall been a success the nudge unit, would you say?
Daniel Susskind: I think it's been a great success. I think its been a success both in a practical sense, in terms of I think more and more policy makers are appealing to more realistic ideas of how it is that human beings behave, in designing their policies, but from a practical point of view, it's a good thing.
Also from a general outside of the policy-making world, the success of the nudge unit and the success of the books that have been written around it means that this area of research, behavioral economics, that's basically what it is, it's based on behavioral economics.
This is economics, it's rooted in psychology, you know rooted in assumptions about not always assuming that people are entirely rational and self interested, but they might behave in a irrational or a non-self interested way.
In general, the second success I think is that these books and this unit has raised the profile of this literature, which ... You know it's not a new literature, it's not a new area of research, it's been going on for decades, but only in the past few years has it really come to the public consciousness. I think it's partly a success of the nudge unit and people who have been involved in it writing accessible books about the thinking.
Ron Baker: Right, do you know Rory Sutherland from Ogilvy over there in the UK?
Daniel Susskind: I don't know him personally but I've been in a ... I've come across him a few times, yes.
Ron Baker: Yeah, he's a big believer in behavioral economics for advertising agencies and believes that they ... Behavioral economics are going to become irrelevant.
The other thing I wanted to give you a chance to do is just maybe profile your father for us, because I know you co-wrote the book with your dad, and that's just awesome I have to tell you. What a thrill to be able to work with your dad on a project like this, but can you give us a little background on your dad? I'm familiar with him, I read the end of Lawyers, and some of his other books but I'll let you go ahead and lay out his bio.
Daniel Susskind: He's been working in the field of law and technology for the past 34 years really. In the UK, he's IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice, and he advises governments, and he advises international firms on how to use technology. In the government's case, on how to use technology to improve access to justice, and in the commercial setting, advising firms on how to use technology to provide a more affordable access to legal advice to their clients. As you said, he's written widely. He's written eight books I think it is on technology in the law and ... The story about how we came to write this book together is an interesting one. He had been as I said you know working in the field of technology in the law for the past 34 years, and generally talking to audiences of lawyers. What had happened was after talking to audiences of lawyers, occasionally a stray doctor, or a stray teacher or a stray architect would approach him at the end and say you know what you're talking about in the legal profession is very interesting, but it appears to apply equally well in our professions as well.
We first spoke about this, it was back in 2010 when I was working in ... It was in the prime minister's office and I was in the policy unit working on lots of different policy areas, on health policy, on education policy, on tax policy, and I had a good overview of lots of different professions. It was clear that the thinking that my dad had developed in the legal profession was applied equally well in these other professions. We had this idea of joining forces and investigating the professions more generally, and the result was this book, so the book in part draws on the thinking that he's developed in the legal profession over the past few decades, but then also, there's a lot of new thinking in the book as well. Thoughts on a set of more then a hundred interviews that we did with people in the professions and outside the professions. Leading technologists and people who write about technology. Hundreds and hundreds of different sources, both traditional academic material and lots of online material as well.
Ron Baker: Right, I really thoroughly appreciated you guy's thorough homework on this book, it's really well documented and I liked how you tackled ... I think eight different professions right?
Daniel Susskind: Right yeah.
Ron Baker: Doctors, lawyers, accountants, auditors, architects, journalists, teachers and clergies. Daniel from the book you wrote this, towards the opening. You say this book is about the professions and the systems and people that will replace them. We are advancing into a post professional society. Now I know that term comes from another book, what is [inaudible] or something in 1977 wrote that. Explain that, what is a post professional society?
Daniel Susskind: The book is about how technology will affect the professions. We set out two future for the professions. The first future for the professions is reassuringly familiar. It's just a more efficient version of what we have today. In this future, professionals use technology to basically streamline and optimize the traditional ways in which they've worked. It's just a more efficient, 19th century way of working.
Ron Baker: Right.
Daniel Susskind: We see lots of examples of this. Doctors using Skype to talk to patients, teachers drawing on online material in their classrooms. Architects using computer assisted design software to design a tool or a more complicated building.
The second future is a very different proposition, and that's the one that you had appeal to there. It's where these systems and machines not only make the traditional ways of working more efficient and optimize them, but actively displaces the worker traditional professionals.
We think for now, these two futures will develop in parallel, but in the long run, we expect that's second future to dominate. We will find new and better ways of sharing our expertise in society and we argue that this will lead to a dismantling of the traditional professions.
To an extent, we already see this second future. Last year, in America, 48 million Americans used online tax preparation software rather than a traditional tax accountant to help them.
Ron Baker: Right.
Daniel Susskind: That's a very very different way of delivering the sort of expertise that used to just be locked up in the heads of tax professionals or buried away in their filing cabinets.
Now on ebay last year, there were 60 million disputes that arose, that were resolved online using what's called an e-mediation platform, without traditional lawyers. Bear in mind that 60 million disputes is three ties as many lawsuits as are filed in the entire US justice system.
These are significant quantities of work that traditionally would have had to be carried out by traditional professions, but now are done by people and systems that look very very different to those traditional ways.
That's what we mean, those two examples give you a sense of the sort of world that we think we're entering into.
Ron Baker: Yeah and boy do you lay out all of these different ways technology is increasing corroboration and knowledge sharing and knowledge elicitation and I love the example about the robot pharmacy at the University of California San Francisco with two million prescriptions without errors. I mean when you think about them ...
Daniel Susskind: Interestingly, it's now six million prescriptions, and there's been one error, and that error was down to human error.
Ron Baker: Kind of like the driverless car being rear-ended by another human.
Daniel Susskind: Very similar as that.
Ron Baker: Other apps, things like patients like me, where you crowd source with other patients to have your diagnosis, and just a way to share knowledge and all of that, that is very transformative, and quite disruptive to the grand bargain so to speak as you guys call if of the professions.
Daniel Susskind: I think that's right. We set out at the start of the book, what we call the grand bargain. This is an arrangement that holds across the professions, which allows certain people, namely the professions exclusivity over providing certain types of services, so only lawyers can provide certain types of legal advice, only doctors can provide certain types of medical advice and so on.
The examples that you just gave there challenge the background bargain to an extent, they challenge the exclusivity of the professions, so these old gatekeepers who traditionally have been the only way to access certain types of for example legal expertise or medical expertise.
Patients like me is a good example. That's several hundred thousand people who come together to share their insights and their experience and their knowledge of their illnesses and the treatment plans that they went through with each other. Sometimes there is intervention by traditional doctors, but in many cases there isn't. That's a very different way of sharing expertise. You see this across the professions, whether it's edmodo in education or SERMO is medicine, or Archinect in architecture. There's a whole host of these new systems and new platforms.
When we began writing the book in 2010, our main preoccupation was with with he current professions. We were asking and trying to understand how it was that technology was changing the sort of things that professionals the professions have traditionally done.
As our thinking and our work progresses, we realized that actually, there was a more fundamental question that we had to address, which was how is it that we create and share knowledge and information and expertise in society? Traditionally we've done this through the professions. They have been the gatekeepers of their own respective bodies of expertise and knowledge. If you've got a medical problem, the only way to resolve it is to go to a doctor. You got a legal problem, the only way to resolve it is to go to a lawyer. You got a tax problem, you got to go to a tax accountant and so on.
Actually what we set out in the book are new ways of producing and distributing expertise in society. Ways that look very different to the traditional professions, so you set out some there, you talked about patients like me. We all that a community of experience.
Ron Baker: Right.
Ed Kless: Daniel, I just wanted to pick up on something that Ron left off earlier, and that is this idea of the grand bargain. I guess I'm jumping ahead to the conclusion a little bit here, so I don't want to give too much of that away, but do you think that the grand bargain is something that will remain in place, and if it does, does that really necessitate the notion that this knowledge be enclosed, continue to be enclosed at some point?
Daniel Susskind: Yeah. I set out what the grand bargain was before. Part of it is that the professions get granted exclusivity, so only doctors can provide medical advice, only lawyers can provide legal advice and so on.
There's another part to the grand bargain which is that this exclusivity doesn't come for free. The professions have a responsibility as well. There's an expectation put on them, that they make their respective bodies of expertise available in an affordable and an accessible way. In the book, we argue that by and large, the professions are failing. Not enough people, and most people in organizations in fact can't afford the services of first rate professionals, or indeed any professionals. The expertise of most professionals is a very very scarce resource.
We built effective, a Rolls-Royce for a few people, but the majority are walking. The promise of these new systems and machines, either operating alone or with non-specialist, non-professional users is a liberation of expertise. Far more affordable access to expertise that traditionally was locked up as I said before in the heads of professionals.
That's the pressure that is challenging the grand bargain. The pressure to liberalize, and to allow more people to try in different ways to produce and to share expertise. You're right at the end of the book, we have a reflection where is it the case that we can do without no exclusivity at all? One of the fears that we talk about in the book is that you might get a decline in the traditional professions, in the old gatekeepers, but there's a risk that you simply replace them with new gatekeepers.
New organizations, particularly technology companies who control and are responsible for producing and sharing expertise. It isn't clear that necessarily the grand bargain that was conceived in the 19th century applies to these new institutions and people, they look very different. It's one of the things that we say have to be addressed and has to be thought about, the grand bargain was conceived and designed for what we call in the book, we call it a pre based industrial society, but we don't live in a print based industrial society any more we live in a technology based internet society where there are very very different ways to produce and share expertise. We need to rethink ... It may be case that the call for liberalization is a good one that we ought to allow more people, and different types of institutions to have a chance to produce and share expertise in a way that was traditionally done by the professions, but that doesn't necessarily mean we want to deregulate, we may want to keep in place certain types of frameworks that govern the behavior of these new people and new institutions, and this regulations may look very different to the traditional grand bargains.
Ed Kless: I want to pick up on this, but first a couple quick background questions. I work for a company called Sage, and I'm sure you've heard of them. Are you aware, or have you ever met our now CEO of Sage, Steven Kelly? He was the chief operating officer of Her Majesty's government for awhile.
Daniel Susskind: I haven't no.
Ed Kless: Okay, just curious about that. Anyway, I want to explain to you that my job at Sage is actually helping accountants, mostly in North American but really throughout the world, make this transformation, moving away from providing traditional service and more toward this idea of knowledge, and I'm going to sound like [inaudible] for my own company here, but we're putting in place some of these systems that you're talking about, one of them is called Sage View, which allows accountants and book keepers deeper exposure into their customers books to allow the to make judgments ahead of time, whereas traditionally accountants has been about, and accounting firms have been about the past right. What happened yesterday or last quarter, we're really trying to help them project into the future what's going to happen based on a lot of the data that is available. What's curious about that is we often help these accountants and book keepers make a change to their business model because ... You bring this up in the book and deal with it on a couple of different occasions, the billable hour model is completely broken from that perspective because you can't call up a customer and say listen I notice that you're going to be out of cash in six months, and oh by the way, I'm charging you for this phone call by the hour right. You have to have fixed price agreements in place, so I wanted to dig in with you a little bit on that. You do mention the fact that the billable hour is a problem, but Ron and I have a theory in fact ... The founding of the VeraSage Institute, which Ron is a co-founder of is based on this, that the real underlying problem is the timesheet. Curious as to get your thoughts on this, with your background in economics, and Ron has made this connection, and I think it's a brilliant one, that really the billable hour, and ultimately the timesheet is really a derivative of Marx's labor theory of value.
Daniel Susskind: In the sense that the value of some output is ... Depends on the value of the labor that was put into it.
Ed Kless: Correct, and I just wanted to get your reaction to that. Does that make sense to you? Do you see as that might be part of the problem here.
Daniel Susskind: I mean you're right, we look in a critical at the billable hour in the book. It's ... A funny story that my dad tells about, he hired my younger sister one summer to ... It was to stamp a set of envelopes and he said I will pay you this amount per hour to do it. She was very young at the time, she was maybe 14 or 15, and she smiled and looked at him and said, well I'll just take my time then.
If a 14 or a 15 year-old can [inaudible] in onto that then it does suggest that there's a problem with it. The point we make in the book, and it's quite an important one, and I'd like to see discussed more is the idea of latent demand. There exists at the moment a great reservoir of unmet demand for professional service.
People who would like the expertise or advice or support of professionals but simply can't afford it. The promise of many of these systems and machines is that they provide ... On a per unit basis yes it's cheaper, but the promise is of a liberation of this latent demand and a far greater volume. Far more people having access to expertise that was previously charged at a far higher rate to far fewer people.
Ed Kless: I know I totally agree. I'm one of the people who does their taxes using an online tax return software, much to the chagrin of the people that I work with and you do make a fantastic point, and you brought it up briefly earlier, and that is that expertise is the scarce resource here, not time.
One of the things that I think is a corollary to that is the notion that time is a constraint that we all live under right. Again, the really important point is the fixation on output, and what are the results of these things. I think your book dances all around that question but doesn't quite make it as forcefully as we do, which is fine, but I just want to thank you for really filling in some of the gaps even especially in my thinking on it, so appreciate that. Anyway, continuing this notion of the future of the professions themselves, and I know you don't have any specific timelines, but do you see anything in the short term that's going to be changing, maybe in subtle ways?
Daniel Susskind: In the professions?
Ed Kless: Yes in the professions.
Daniel Susskind: We in the book we set out ... As I said at the start the book is based on a set of a hundred or so interviews, but also lots of research, and we set out almost 30 trends, 30 things we see happening across the professions already.
Broadly, they're grouped under, they're grouped under lots of different headings. The most remarkable one for me is the move away from the idea of professional workers, a bespoke service. Now bespoke is a word, it's quite a British word and doesn't always resonate with an American audience.
Bespoke, you can think of it as custom or tailored. The idea that when you go and get a tailor made suit, each time the tailor sort of measures you up starts from scratch and tailors this one off unique, one of a kind suit for you. There's traditionally been a sense that that's what professional work is like. Each time the architect starts, traditionally from a blank sheet of paper. The lawyer starts from a blank contract. The doctor treats every case independently. Everything is treated in a bespoke manner. What we see in many of these new systems and machines is a move away from bespoke service towards something actually we call it mass customization.
It' still tailored to the particular needs of each individual recipient, but in a very very different way.
Ed Kless: Yep.
Daniel Susskind: The most well recognized legal brand in the US isn't a traditional law firm, it's legalzoom.com. You go there and you answer a set of questions and you get an automated contract or will or whatever particular legal document you're looking for tailored to your needs, but it's done in a very very different fashion to that traditional belief that the only way to do it is to start from scratch to treat every individual case as a unique case and so on.
As I said in the book, we look at almost 30 trends that we see across the professions at the moment.
Ron Baker: Daniel, there's so many places I want to go, but I'm going to jump to the topic of jobs because I've summed your book for different audiences, I do a lot of public speaking, and after I read it I was on the speaking tour, and mostly CPAs by the way, and I kind of gave them your basic premise of the book, and some of the examples and had a discussion with them about some of this, and everybody of course starts to focus on jobs. Jobs, what does this mean for jobs, there'll be less jobs.
I have to tell that you know as an economist, and I'm heavily influenced by the Austrian school, just so you know where I'm coming from. [inaudible] all of that. The purpose of an economy is not to create jobs. I mean Milton Friedman said it best. When he was over in China watching a residential complex being built, people were there with shovels moving the earth, and he asked his bureaucrat host, he said why don't you bring in some land moving equipment, get this done in days. The Chinese bureaucrat said well Mr. Friedman you don't understand. This is a jobs program, we have to provide jobs for our people. Friedman said oh well then that's easy. Take away their shovels and give them spoons.
What is your retort to this ... We're going to lose jobs as a result of all this technology?
Daniel Susskind: I think I have two responses. The first is ... One is timings. I think in the medium term, the idea that technology will entirely replace jobs is slightly misleading. In fact what technology will do is change jobs. It's not a question of job loss, but a question of job change. One of the challenges in the medium term is to try and understand the new role that people will have to do in solving the sort of problems that traditionally were solved by the professions.
In the book we set out 12 future roles that we think people will perform in the setting of the professions and many of these are unfamiliar to traditional professionals, so jobs like being a knowledge engineer, or a process analyst or a system provider. These are job titles and job descriptions that don't resonate really with a traditional doctor or a lawyer, and so the challenge there is to identify these new roles and to think about how you can best place yourself to perform them. That's my first comment, is in the medium term at least I think that the fear that technology is going to entirely replace jobs is slightly misleading. In the longer term, and we look at this in the book, I think there is an interesting and a serious question about the future of work, the people.
If you look at the different sorts of faculties that human beings bring to [inaudible] when they perform professional work, whether it's cognitive work, work with our minds, manual work, work with our hands, emotional effective work, or work with our emotions, and empathy for example is quite an important thing that professionals often appeal to. Even the moral faculty. Lots of professional work involves deliberation about what the right thing to do is, what's good, what's bad. When you look at these new systems and machine across all these types of faculties, they are making significant advances, particularly in cognitive work and manual work. My responses to the worries about the very long term is that it just doesn't seem right to say that the purpose of ill health for example is to provide a living for doctors. The purpose of legal problems, the existence of the law is to provide a living for lawyers.
If we can find ways to resolve these problems that provide well paid meaningful work for human beings [inaudible], but our priority ought to be to try and find the most affordable and effective ways to solve these problems. To an extent I agree with your anecdote from before. It's not the purpose of professional problems to provide a living for human traditional professionals.
It's a mistake to think that. That then begs a substantial set of further questions about what is it that people will do to make a living, and that's an important. An incredibly important and interesting question, but the answer to that isn't necessarily do the sorts of things that traditional doctors and lawyers did. That would be my response.
Ron Baker: I mean in a lot of ways, this happens all the time in other sectors of the economy. I mean at one point 90% of us were farmers, and now less than 2% are. We used to have a million telephone operators and those jobs are gone. Jobs change all the time, part of the natural gales of creative destruction right that [inaudible] wrote about. I also wanted to ask you, regarding this grand bargain, part of the problem I see and I'm a CPA by the way, or recovering CPA. Started my life in a then big eight firm, so you kind of get a sense for my age, but the fact that we give these professions a monopoly, that's why they're not innovative, that's why they haven't embraced these technologies.
If you look at any sector that's regulated, they're not innovative. Silicon Valley's the font of creativity it is because it's not regulated. If it was regulated, we'll have Vacuum Tube Valley, probably in West Virginia named after some dead politician.
I see t his as a problem and I think this is where regulation is a barrier to bringing some of these very valuable technologies to the consumer, which should be sovereign right. It's the consumer that decides which of these products and services are valuable, not so much the professions.
Daniel Susskind: I think those ... A regulator would argue that their job in a sense is exactly that. It's to try and protect consumers and recipients. My response would be to emphasize the distinction that I drew before between liberalization and deregulation. One way to interpret what we're talking about in the book is it's a call for liberalization it's a call to say we ought to allow new types of people and new types of institutions to have a go at providing the ... Solving the sort of problems that traditionally were solved by the professions.
The book gives lots of examples of what these new types of people and what these new types of systems might look like. There's a difference between saying that we ought to liberalize and allow that to happen and saying it's a free for all.
Making sure that there's an appropriate regulatory regime is I think an important thing to do, so this distinction between liberalization and deregulation I think is important. We can liberalize without entirely deregulating, but at the same time we can also liberalize and have too much regulation. Distinguishing between those two things I think is quite useful.
Ron Baker: No I do too, and I totally get that. I guess I'm on the side more of deregulation rather than just liberalization because I think, I mean just look at the battle with AirBnB and hotels and taxis and Uber.
Well hell has no fury like a profession opened up to competition. They're not going to go down without a fight, and they're going to try and regulate these new technologies that you so brilliantly documented. They're going to try and regulate them and keep them away from the public and I think that's destructive of value. I think part and parcel of this future has got to be deregulation, and we should rely more on reputation for the professions.
I'm not going to fly an airline that kills me. That has a plane crash. Reputation is what keeps an airline safe, not just regulation. I think reputation more so even than regulation. I mean I know we probably differ on that point, and I would probably go further than you, but it's really an interesting discussion. I mean this goes back ... Your book reminded me of Milton Friedman's PHD paper, did you ever read that?
Daniel Susskind: I didn't no. What was his PHD paper?
Ron Baker: It was income from independent professional practices. He wrote it with Simon [inaudible] I believe, in the 1930s, and Daniel it was so controversial, because he looked at doctors, lawyers, engineers and CPAs I think, in dentist. It was so controversial that they delayed publication of it because he was arguing that the only reason medicine has a monopoly is to keep its wages higher than a market would pay them, and so Milton Friedman spent his whole life rallying against occupation [inaudible], and this whole grand bargain thing, he thought it should be completely deregulated. It should be left to insurance, and other forms of reputational capital that [inaudible] can provide, and I think until we do that, you're not going to see this font of innovation.
Auditors as a case in point. Auditors, you know they have this grand monopoly right, this grand bargain that only they can do and test functions. Well that's why they're not innovative. That's why an audit is performed the same way it was done when I started in the early 80s before the boon of technology. For the most part, these audits have not been subject to the technological revolution, and I think it's precisely because they don't face any competition.
I don't think liberalization goes far enough, I think we need to deregulate it, open up to competition, and let the market innovate and bring a flourish effervescence of new products to the consumer.
Daniel Susskind: This is why the debate about the grand bargain is so important and so interesting. The ... What the people who put the grand bargain in place would say is that in part it's to provide exclusivity, but on the other hand, as I said before, there's the expectation that the work will be done in a reliable and a efficient and an effective way, and without the bargain that wouldn't happen.
Ron Baker: That wouldn't happen.
Daniel Susskind: The argument in the professions is that the work is ... The professions are responsible for some of the most important problems that we have as a society. They keep us in good health, they educate us and our children, they enlighten us spiritually, they give us advice on how to run businesses and so on.
That's perhaps why I'm more ... While I think liberalization is a good thing, I'm perhaps more cautious on deregulation, but this is ... Wherever you fall int his debate, the old grand bargain was designed for a very very different set of people and institutions.
We need to be thinking through what the new grand bargain looks like, because new people, the new systems are already providing access to expertise in very different ways and we haven't got necessarily the best framework for supporting it.
Ron Baker: Right, right. I think they are getting through the cracks, but you know there's been cases over here in the various states. They're trying to limit teledoc and other apps and because they're practicing medicine without a license and all of that. I think that's going to be a huge issue as these new technologies roll forward.
Anyway, just fascinating discussion and not trying trying to start a debate, I just wanted to ...
Daniel Susskind: No not at all, this is exactly the kind of discussion that needs to happen.
Ron Baker: Absolutely, because I think you're right. I think what we do totally agree on is the grand bargain has failed, and it is time ... It's a human construct, like you point out, and if we humans designed it, we can redesign it, and I thought that was a really brilliant point in your book. All right, well welcome back everybody. We're here with Daniel Susskinds, the author of the future of the professions. Daniel, in our last remaining minutes, wanted to ask you about what is your advice to a young student, maybe just graduated high school, looking at various colleges, and he wants to be a doctor, a lawyer an accountant. What would be your advice to that young person?
Daniel Susskind: I think my advice would be one of mindset. If this young person wants to be a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant or an architect, the way their uncle or auntie was a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant, I think they'll be very disappointed. I think the work that the professions do and the way that they operate is going to change more in the next 20 years than it has in the past 200 years. If they go into the professions and they start training for the professions with the expectation that the work that they will do will be the work of a traditional professional, they're going to be very very disappointed.
If on the other hand they go into their careers with the mindset that what I want to do is to solve legal problems, to solve medical problems, to help people run their businesses and I'm going to be ruthless in finding the most effective and the most efficient and the most affordable way of doing so. Independent of whether or not this looks like the traditional ways in which professionals might have worked. I think that will make for a far more fulfilling, and far more exciting career. That would be my sort of ... My main piece of advice, about the mindset that you have, and if they want to get a look at the sort of roles that they could expect to perform, we discuss them in the book and we set them out, and they're the sort of things that I think they ought to expect to be able to ... Or will be expected to be able to do if they want to solve these sorts of problems.
Ed Kless: Daniel this Ed again. I discovered your book and I was reading humans are underrated by Geoff Colvin, I don't know if you've come across that.
Daniel Susskind: Yeah.
Ed Kless: Very similar in theme. I think I have some of the concepts intermingled in my head so much because I was reading both books at the same time. One of the things I think that you point out, and I think it's an important one is what is it that humans should continue to do in the future? I forget exactly how you put it. The question isn't what is it machine's are capable of, but what is it that we prefer humans to continue to do? It think that's what Colvin is asking as well.
Daniel Susskind: That's right, so in the book we ask ... We end the book with ... We said the two big moral questions that we haven't answered and we need to answer. One of them is that traditionally the professions have owned and controlled their respective bodies of expertise and knowledge. Lawyers have looked after legal knowledge, doctors have looked after medical knowledge. Accountants have looked after accounting knowledge and so on. They've been the old gatekeepers of this knowledge. If what we articulate and envisage in the book is right, then we'll see a decline in these old gatekeepers, and potentially the rise of new gatekeepers.
New institutions who control these bodies of expertise. The question of who ought to control these bodies of expertise in the future is a very important one. If we're going to see a decline of the traditional professions, do we want these new gatekeepers or do we perhaps want ownership and control to be spread more widely. That's the first moral question, but then the second moral question is precisely the one that you've identified, which is that these systems and machines are becoming increasingly capable, that's the phrase we use in the book. They're able to perform more and more types of tasks that traditionally we thought only human beings could perform.
There's a real difference between machines being able to perform ... There's a real difference between saying that a machine can perform a task and saying that a machine ought to be able to perform a task. Now that second question is a moral question, it's a normative question. Most people for example including me feel uneasy at the though of a system choosing to turn off a life support machine. Most people feel uneasy at the idea of a machine passing a life sentence, so there are certain types of tasks that we might want a human being necessarily to be involved, and in fact we call ... There's a book we call [inaudible] for a government led public inquiry into this exact question. What sort of tasks are there that we think simply shouldn't be done by these new systems and machines? There's a parallel for it in the UK. There was a report known as ... It's called [inaudible] and it was done just as IVF and test tube babies were becoming ... Technology was becoming increasingly feasible and increasingly affordable and that raised really difficult and important moral questions that at the time hadn't been answered, and so this inquiry led by Mary [inaudible] was set up to look at are there certain things that we're technologically able to do but we ought not to do?
We think we've reached a similar moment in the professions. There are certain types of tasks that can now be performed by machines, and perhaps they ought not to be. We don't reach a position on where that line lies, what tasks should be performed or what tasks shouldn't be performed. We say that's a decision that needs to be put to public debate, but it's a debate we need to have sooner or later before these machines become more and more capable.
Ed Kless: No absolutely. I mean of course I think the great example of that is Captain Chesley Sullenberger and his decision to land that plane in the Hudson River about a decade ago versus trying to get to the airport. Had a computer been in control, it would have been subjected to the biases of the programmer, which probably would have said try to land the aircraft, not in a river right. Similar kind of thing.
This has been absolutely fascinating.
Ron Baker: Yeah we need to close it out here, [inaudible] against it but thank you so much.