Duke Long has been writing some forward looking posts about where CRE is going. Maybe too forward looking for some. But the idea that data and machines will eventually replace jobs performed and decisions made by humans isn’t a novel idea. Futurists have been writing about the day when machine knowledge exceeds human intelligence for awhile. They call it technological singularity and Ray Kurzweil, a leading proponent, places the day sometime in 2035.
What will that look like? USA Today took a look thirty years into the future. It all sounded pretty good – kitchens that cook, tailored education, better health, smart cars. Each gain in efficiency, however, comes at the price of change.
Cooking kitchens meant fewer restaurants; tailored education translates to fewer teachers and smaller, if any school buildings. With products projected to consumers’ right in their homes, who needs a store? 3-D printers mean that we’ll all be manufacturers someday. Even medical care will be remotely performed with online doctor/patient sessions and implanted devices sending data and receiving biological “directions.”
If you’re in commercial real estate, it seems like a big part of your future will involve unloading functionally obsolete buildings. And what then? The jobs of the future will be either creating machines or taking orders from them. Only those with an exceptional in-demand talent like athletics, writing or art. The talented and creative will be highly paid. The rest of us will have to get by with less.
If you think there’s a growing discrepancy between income levels now, just wait 30 years. In the interim, we’ve got workers with the wrong skills to earn the middle class wages for the positions we need now – engineers, tradesmen, programmers and mathematicians – all jobs, you notice, that will move us towards the new machine age.
For CRE, watch for further advances in automated lease renewals, site selection and computer determined investment/institutional acquisitions and dispositions. Once those data standards everyone wants are in place, building sensors and all sorts of other data streams can be fed directly to the machines. Agents will need to be familiar with and offer sophisticated decision making software to their clients.
But someone – a skilled CRE agent – needs to make sense of all that data for their clients, right? Don’t count on the “CRE as analyst/adviser” role lasting too long. Artificial intelligence (AI) will replace the need for humans to extrapolate and explain all that data. Newspapers are currently testing AI created news articles and some financial analysts already create AI generated reports that they review then send out to their clients. Eventually, AI analysis will be so good it won’t even need human review.
There may still be a niche for companies that employ people. Maybe its restaurants with humans taking orders, schools that have real, live teachers or services, like real estate, that can still make the case for personal guidance. But coming generations won’t care so much whether people are involved especially when the personal touch costs more.
So what’s a CRE agent to do? Don’t worry about it. This machine takeover will seem seamless to you – just as cell phones, computers and any of the technology you use today seem like they’ve always been there. Just don’t become complacent. The future will require all of us to be more agile and, if we want to rise, more aggressive. Luckily, flexibility and initiative are two hallmarks of good sales agents. At least you’ll be equipped to meet the future.
Photo by vaXzine