Will Artificial Intelligence explosion lead to massive unemployment?

When most people are in fear of losing their job, it is grounded in today’s realites such as a world wide recession, fercier than ever competition in their successive fields or simple job outsourcing to more economically viable countries. But what I would like to do is to take a look at another factor, one which may be the single biggest impulse for a world wide change in employment rates – technological advances. And to be more precise, I want to put under careful scrutiny how Robots and recent forms of Artificial Intelligence might revolutionize our society through a possible automation of our future jobs.

If there is one thing to be gleaned from the recent century, it is that technological breakthroughs can happen fast. It took the industrial revolution a hundred years to change the face of the earth, then it took the scientific-technical revolution fifty years to accelerate growth and globalize our world. But with the invention of the first primitive computing devices in the early seventies, we stepped over the threshold of the information and telecommunications revolution. A host of breakthrough technologies were introduced, layered upon each other and then blew a hole in our society, our daily life, the way we work and interact with each other. Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 06.37.53

 

The Nokias and Iphones which upended the world.

Just consider the mobile revolution which was precursed with the ugly buttons-from-hell phones – the Nokias and the Ericssons. Many people saw the future when Apple presented their first Iphone in 2007 but few predicted how fast this future would turn the industry upside down, a mere five years.  With the hyper fast lane towards miniaturization of every electronic component available, more and more people are throwing out their computers for small scale tablets or te phablets . And just seeing an 80-year old lady crossing the street, more occuppied with her mobile than with the cars that migth hit her, is certainly a sign of the times – our technological Zeitgeist.

But if you think this transformation is astounding, (and in all due right, it really is) just wait for the next big revolution which has been flooding through the crevices of every sceintific and commercial community for the past 2-3 years. We have reached a huge momentum with the robotics and artificial intelligence development and it is highly likely that in the next 5-10 years we will see the same explosive growth of A.I. as we have seen with the mobile revolution.

AccessPanelFace

Despite that everyone seems to agree that the Robots revolution is coming, there is still a wide disagreement how this will turn out and manifest in our society. What kind of jobs will be the in the biggest danger of automation in the first wave? And which jobs will prevail bevause of their human, creative and intuition based nature?

So what makes a job susceptible for automation? Computer have up till now been excellent at executing repepetive routines, calculate logical problems and approach big amounts of data in order to analyze them, catalogue them and so on. What the A.I. algorithims haven’t been able to manage so well, was finding patterns, communicating with people, and making decisions.

 

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Yet another revolution, the autonomous driven  one.

Considering the above, jobs within the following areas will be the first to be replaced in the very near future. These are Transportation, Personal Assistants Transportation may be the most obvious as already now there are being made huge leaps towards building automous cars. The technological prophet Ray Kurzweil has been noted by saying:

2022 is when most car companies developing autonomous or semi-autonomous cars will be ready to launch. Kurzweil believes they help reduce the number of people killed in accidents, and free us up to do something else instead of driving during the commute. – Ray Kurzweil

With the promise of an end to vehicular accidents the AI-driven vehicles could bring on a new safer future. One where road accidents are a thing of the past and the human casualties are reduced to a minimum. You don’t have to look far to see the general buzz everywhere. Every car manufacturer out there is scrambling to get out their latest version of the autonomous car. And it doesn’t stop with the classic car manufactures, because pure tech-companies like Apple, Google and Tesla are working on their own version of the car.

But the obvious downside of this change, would be the end of the need for millions of human drivers, Truck drivers, taxi drivers and every single  driver in freight companies would potentially stand to lose their work. And the question is not if it will happen, but how soon and at what inital scale. Or to put it another way, a company like DHL or Fedex won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on this one if they see massive savings on robot-driven deliveries. Not in our economy which is obsessed by economical growth.

Self-Driving Trucks Are Going to Hit Us Like a Human-Driven Truck – Steve Santos

The personal assistant at risk.

Jobs that require repetitive tasks such as creating spreadsheets, managing calendars and travel schedules, or writing reports can be easily replaced by AI. This will prompt the enterprise of the future to consider investing in robotic personal assistants and secretaries, putting the jobs of their human counterparts at risk. Intelligent virtual PAs are already affordable, with many of them being a part of smartphone operating systems.

Apple’s Siri, Google’s Google Now, and Microsoft’s Cortana are all gaining more users thanks to their contextual references and ability to hold simple conversations. Advances in AI will give people the ability to directly talk to electronic gadgets and appliances, making the simplest personal assistant’s tasks obsolete.

The healthcare system reimagined.

We have seen more than enough proof know that computers can diagnose diseases and even perform surgeries. Many hospitals worldwide have already invested in surgical robots, but now this trend is on the brink of becoming larger than ever. Nursing staff might undergo cut backs as the AI-enabled health monitoring algorithms become commonplace.

All of this might be done without any interactions on the human part. A.I. will indeed be disrutpive in this field as different A.I. algorithms will continue to monitor our health even if we are not in the hospital. Imagine your whole life being constantly monitored and scanned for any diseases that might pop up in the future. This constant diagnosis will eliminate the simplest General Physician tasks and immediately alert and direct you to the nearest specialist according to the ailment that might turn up in your body.

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But however much we strive for automation, will we be able to replace the most human aspects as empathy and emotional care which only a human nurse can channel while performing her duties?

“Advances in A.I. [artificial intelligence] and robotics allow people to cognitively offload repetitive tasks and invest their attention and energy in things where humans can make a difference. We already have cars that talk to us, a phone we can talk to, robots that lift the elderly out of bed and apps that remind us to call Mom. An app can dial Mom’s number and even send flowers, but an app can’t do that most human of all things: emotionally connect with her.” — Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center

How safe is your job, really?

Here are a few guidelines what to look out for and how to judge if your job is in danger.

How much of your creative side do you bring to the table? How often do need to come up with new thinking, new solutions and clever ideas which will push the boundaries of your job?

How geared is your work towards empathy and caring? How much do you have to give of yourself in service of others with warm emotional support for older or the sick? Going from one extreme to the other, a secretary entering a highly repepetive excel-spreadsheets all day long wouldn’t need to develop her social and emotional compassion as much as a nurse or a doctor.

And finally social intelligence and perceptiveness. Here would a psychologist or psychiatrist score highly with their well developed skills judging other people social interactions.

These are only some rough guidelines to go by and even if they are very general, they give some ground to step on, and some reassurance that the outlook may not be as dystopian as initially imagined. Or to put it in another perspective by Seth Finkelstein, a point of view which might be the most sober and reassuring. A reminder that we are still in control of the change that is coming.

“The technodeterminist-negative view, that automation means jobs loss, end of story, versus the technodeterminist-positive view, that more and better jobs will result, both seem to me to make the error of confusing potential outcomes with inevitability. A technological advance by itself can either be positive or negative for jobs, depending on the social structure as a whole. This is not a technological consequence; rather, it’s a political choice.” — Seth Finkelstein, software programmer and consultant

Please stay tuned as I would like to look into how even jobs that are highly creative or those that require high levels of empathy might be in danger.  I will look at how computers are becoming artists by creating art through Google’s Deep Dream. And how they are coming up with brilliant inuitive moves beyond human capabilities by winning in GO against the best players in the world.
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On the other side of the spectrum,  It’s important to inspect closer how many jobs will prevail, transform and even flourish amidst this new A.I. driven economy. Look out for the second part of this article to see how this new economy will not only lead to unemployment but maybe also towards something more positive – a job transformation.

And drop me a line/commment as I want to hear your input on this one.