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Gartner Says Smart Machines Will Have Widespread And Deep Business Impact Through 2020

Sixty percent of CEOs believe that the emergence of smart machines capable of absorbing millions of middle-class jobs within 15 years is a "futurist fantasy," according to Gartner's 2013 CEO survey. However, Gartner predicts that smart machines will have widespread and deep business impact within only seven years through 2020.

"Most business and thought leaders underestimate the potential of smart machines to take over millions of middle-class jobs in the coming decades," said Kenneth Brant, research director at Gartner. "Job destruction will happen at a faster pace, with machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market's ability to create valuable new ones."

Gartner analysts discussed the growing impact of smart machines at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, being held here through today.

CIOs must change their mission to address the proliferation of smart machines in a widening range of jobs and consider the impact this trend might have on their career paths and on increasing levels of unemployment, according to Gartner's latest "Maverick" research.

Gartner's Maverick research is designed to spark new, unconventional insights. Maverick research is unconstrained by Gartner's typical broad consensus-formation process to deliver breakthrough, innovative and disruptive ideas from the company's research incubator to help organizations get ahead of the mainstream and take advantage of trends and insights that could impact IT strategy and the wider organization.

Machines are evolving from automating basic tasks to becoming advanced self-learning systems as capable as the human brain in many highly specialized professions. As such, the next wave of job losses will likely occur among highly valued specialists during the next decade.

Gartner research has found that many CEOs are failing to recognize the widespread and deep business impact that smart machines will have through 2020.

"The bottom line is that many CEOs are missing what could quickly develop to be the most significant technology shift of this decade," said Mr. Brant. "In fact, even today, there is already a multifaceted marketplace for engineering a 'digital workforce,' backed by major players on both the supply and demand side. This marketplace comprises intelligent agents, virtual reality assistants, expert systems and embedded software to make traditional machines 'smart' in a very specialized way, plus a new generation of low-cost and easy-to-train robots and purpose-built automated machines that could significantly devalue and/or displace millions of humans in the workforce."

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