The theme of man versus machine has been a popular subject for books and movies for decades. Science fiction films like The Terminator highlight the darkest possible outcomes of technology. Well into the twenty-first century, some of the fictional aspects of these stories are becoming reality. Artificial Intelligence (or AI) is real, and gets more advanced with each passing year. Though it’s not likely that robots will destroy us all, they could replace you at work.
A recent poll surveying 1,986 technology field experts asked their predictions about the future of AI in the economy. The poll questionnaire asked respondents if they believed self-driving cars and AI will replace humans in those fields by 2025
The results of the poll were humbling. A whopping 48% percent of respondents said they believed robots would displace a significant percentage of jobs, but 52% optimistically believed that AI would create more jobs than it destroyed. Overall, the group did agree on a few things.
AI may improve the workplace because:
- Historically, new technology ended up creating jobs
- Displaced jobs are always replaced by new and better jobs
- Some jobs can only be performed by humans
- AI isn’t advancing fast enough to cause devastating widespread change in the job market
- Society is already structured in such a way as to reduce the impact of new technology on the job market as a whole
Fred Baker, an internet pioneer at IEFT and Cisco Systems Fellow, didn’t believe the hype. He says that it’s unlikely robots will be doing all of our jobs by 2025, and we won’t have to worry about a robotic takeover any time soon. Remember, robots only abide by programming, which (at this point) must be made by a human.
Others have a dimmer view of the future. The arguments they use to justify their belief (that AI will replace most human jobs) are as follows.
- AI already displaces jobs (think self-checkout machines), and will continue to do so en masse.
- Income inequality will get worse as low-skilled jobs are displaced, and nothing will be there to replace them
AI already displaces jobs (think self-checkout machines), and will continue to do so en masse. Income inequality will get worse as low-skilled jobs are displaced, and nothing will be there to replace them
GigaOM Research Lead Steve Boyd highlighted an interesting point. He begs the question, if AI replaces people in the workforce, what will people do when the world doesn’t need them? At this point, both sides of the AI discussion have points worth sharing. The truth of the matter is, we don’t know yet. One thing is certain; our current education system does little to improve the issue, no matter what outcome occurs. Our outdated system of education is woefully inadequate at preparing people for the future workforce.
If the current trend continues, robots and AI will slowly replace low-skilled jobs, leaving mostly skilled and intellectual labor. These fields require either education or training, meaning only the educated and skilled will have any worthwhile prospects. Not everybody can be an entrepreneur. Our current system of sit-down-and-memorize education is practically useless for preparing students for a new, dynamic economy. Our schools were structured to prepare students for work in the industrial economy of the 20th century, which has long shipped overseas.
In fact, some experts predict a change in vernacular. The impact of computers, AI and machines may be so great, that ‘jobs’ and ‘work’ will become archaic terms. There is some good that can come from this, too. Some experts predict that humans won’t need to get another job after robots replace our work; AI will do all the labor we used to, so we can simply sit back and enjoy the profits.
Some people suspect that automated manufacturing will cause a resurgence in handmade products. We see this today with sites like Etsy. This is great news for craftsmen and artisans; their market could explode, and the new technology could be used to help promote and market their products. After all, a machine doesn’t care if it gets laid off.
Technology will advance, and there’s no doubt about it. The future isn’t guaranteed, and all we can do is speculate. Most experts agree that humans will retain control of the political and social environments of the world, and continue to oversee economics. The ultimate responsibility of protecting jobs falls on governments and industry. It’s all possible to manage, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep the world fed, employed, and happy. Which prediction about AI do you agree with? Do you think robots will take your job, or create a better one? Are you ready for the future? Nobody knows what the future of technology and artificial intelligence will bring, but you should still do your research and prepare yourself. Trust your judgement and act accordingly.