Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

Can Machine Intelligence Disrupt The Professions?

Proactive, Haptic Sensing / 05 Jan 2017 / By David Moschella

Doctors are increasingly frustrated by rising workloads and relentless cost pressures.  ‘Management fees’ eat up too much of our investment returns.  Student debt now exceeds $2 trillion in the US alone.  Consultants remain the butt of a thousand jokes.  Just google ‘lawyer’ and ‘burnout’.

The Professions, long a cornerstone of advanced economies, are creaking as never before.  And yet, despite the enormous workloads and spending, society remains massively under-served.  Billions of global citizens can only dream of having affordable access to modern medical care, a fulfilling education, or sound legal, financial and other advice. 

Information technology clearly has the potential to break through these bottlenecks.  Digital services that serve billions of customers could shake-up the mostly face-to-face business models that characterize the professions today.  Consumerization, expert systems, software agents and advanced analytics all hold tremendous promise.  These innovations have long raised the possibility that health care, education, law and other domains of deep human knowledge will someday be challenged by the PhD equivalents of Amazon, Netflix and Uber.  But while these forms of disruption could generate profound benefits for society, the rate of change thus far has been so slow that many professionals have understandably become deeply skeptical that any real change will ever occur.

Will machine intelligence prove to be a turning point? 

That’s the topic we are now investigating in my new research project.  Since the earliest days of computing, technology pioneers have anticipated the time when computers would be able to mimic, match, or exceed human capabilities, and while we are certainly not there yet, we can now see a plausible path forward in a wide range of professional domains. 

Indeed, we think it is now clear that both the synergies and competition between human and machine expertise will be defining societal dynamics for many years to come, affecting not just doctors, lawyers and professors, but accountants, statisticians, actuaries, tax advisers, engineers, designers, programmers, teachers, translators, editors, consultants, and really anyone – and any industry – whose work depends upon deep human learning. 

We envision this to be an important, ongoing area of LEF thinking and research as it is a natural extension of our interest in 21st century organizations and humans, the evolution of the cloud/Matrix, and their associated disruptions.

In short, this project will assess the outlook for machine intelligence usage within the professions today, and what this will mean for the skills, business models and professional practices and cultures of the future.  If you are interested in participating in this exciting new line of LEF research, please contact me at


Charlie Gunningham 06.26AM 01 Sep 2017

Interested in assisting, if I can ... a fascinating area!


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