In the blockbuster super hero movies, Robert Downey Jr. plays Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. In the stories, Tony has a digital assistant named Jarvis, who is a number of evolutions beyond what Siri is today.

Jarvis’ comprehension is human-like; he doesn’t just respond to simple queries like “Directions to the airport.” Rather, he and Tony are able to converse like people do and work collaboratively. Jarvis is omnipresent in Tony’s home, his Iron Man costume and also his car. Jarvis is everywhere that Tony needs him, and Tony needs him everywhere.

Yes, I am aware that it’s a super hero film, but life imitates art. What we put into our fantasies is what we want in our lives. And when Siri shifts from iPhone to Jarvis, a lot of financial advisors are going to be in trouble.

Automation isn’t exactly new.

You’re thinking, “What is the likelihood that a person would risk it all and trust a robot over a person they can look in the eye?”

100%. There are two reasons I am so sure: People have an almost impossible willingness to trust technology. Want me to prove it? I know you have typed things into Google you would never tell your best friend. You trust Google to keep your secrets, and though you might not think about it (or like to think about it), most of the planes you have flown on have landed themselves. Somewhere in our heart of hearts, when we contemplate the existential threats of the world (such as climate change), we believe that technology will save us. Technology is a part of us, it’s who we are.

Secondly, people won’t feel like they are buying technology; they’ll feel like they are buying transformation. They will be buying something completely personalized, just for them, to help them be who they want to be.

We want Jarvis. We want someone who is always there working to make everything better and more familiar for us.

Robots have done all kinds of jobs for humans for decades already, and that isn’t going to stop. Some of these robots have worked with us for so long we give them names, and when they retire we get together to bid farewell to our old friends. We talk about autonomous cars that are coming, when in reality they are already here. Anyone who owns a Tesla can turn the autopilot on and sit back while the car maneuvers itself through town.

What will happen to cab drivers when all cars can drive themselves? What about truck drivers, delivery guys, and forklift operators?

Think about how many people used to do these jobs in this Amazon factory.

Want to do something scary? Go buy a coffee, go outside and pay attention to how many people sitting in a car are getting a paycheck to sit in that car. How long does it take for you to count 100 people who will be out of work once more cars are autonomous? For fun, while writing this, I went for a quick drive to my new office. It took me six minutes. Six minutes to count 100 people who soon won’t have a paycheck because a robot or program took their job.

The scary thing is, you can do that test in any city in the world.

I wondered if there were any robots driving around the tarmac at the various airports I visit. I haven’t found one (yet) but I did find one at the airport that parks your car. And I found this one who helps you find your way to your next flight.

Letter carriers? Your dog can bark at them, bite them or pee on them, and none of that will stop the mail.

Drone delivery? How long before I’m sitting up at the cabin in the woods, awaiting the drone from Amazon, which is dropping off something I need from Whole Foods downtown to my not-so-secret summer lair? “Yes, it’s expensive” I will rationalize to my guests, sitting on the deck with a cold drink on the go, “But we don’t do it often, and when you have to have crab legs at the cabin, you have to have crab legs at the cabin.” The whole scene is easier to imagine when I’m just thinking of the drone flying (as the crow flies) a few kilometers from the store to my house.

Feel like pizza but you don’t want to talk or tip? Call Domino’s.

Has it been a while since you visited the nursing home?

Here is the first robot declared a legal citizen of the world, made even creepier by the human in the video who looks more like a robot than the robot, which is probably the point the engineers are trying to make.

When will Jarvis, as he exists in the films, show up ready to work and be at your service?

Soon. Really, really soon.

And he will willingly do things for his clients that you don’t. He will personalize his services to cater to his clients. He will pay attention to all kinds of things that lie outside his clients’ investments.

Jarvis will become the linchpin that holds a life together.

And here is the truth of it.

Becoming a commodity is a choice. You are what you charge for? Are you charging for transactions or transformations?

As I said in a blog a few weeks back, the Robo Advisor can do your job as well as you can; this is an uncomfortable truth. The opportunity for you, should you choose to take it, is to realize that the Robo Advisor has no idea what a meaningful life is. That term does not compute.

This, and this alone, is your opportunity.

 

 

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