Robots Poised To Take A Plethora Of Jobs
Some Computer Scientists recently claimed that by 2045 robots and automation will drop global employment from 60 to 50% having a dramatic yet still unpredictable impact on world economies and apparently the concept of leisure-time itself.
In February 2016, the American Association for the Advancement of Science held its annual meeting in Washington DC. These are the guys that publish Science Magazine. At that meeting computer scientists and machine ethicists discussed the future of robots in the workplace, and AI. Many concluded that it could cause mass unemployment and unpredictable effects on the economy.
Likewise, a recent report from Citibank concluded automation could threaten 69% of the jobs in India, 77% of the jobs in China, and 47% of jobs in the United States.
And finally, The World Economic Forum reported early in 2016 a warning that the rise of robots will lead to a net loss of more than 5 million jobs in world economies by 2020.
So…ok, robots are gonna take a lot of jobs in the future.
So who will be affected? It looks like people with moderate skills at first according to Moshe Vardi, a computer scientist at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Attorneys, doctors, and, computer programmers will be ok. Anything where creativity and contextualization are important. At the other end of the spectrum, jobs such as those in the food-service industry will be ok as well since they cost so little, it wouldn’t be worth it to replace them with robots.
If however you’re a data entry clerk, in a call center, in the manufacturing industry, or anyone that’s in delivery or shipping, you’re days may be the first to go.
So for example, 10% of the jobs in the US operate a vehicle as a major part of their job description. We are already seeing the rise of seriously competent autonomous cars. It doesn’t take much prescience to see that many people who drive for a living could easily be replaced within a generation.
Stopping this Rise of the Machines is not a realistic option in my opinion. Much of this advance will be part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, called Industry 4.0.
We’ve all heard of the industrial revolution. It wasn’t a one-time event however. Major new technologies over the decades have re-invigorated it to such a degree that many believe they each warrant their own version number.
- Industry 1.0: Water/steam power
- Industry 2.0: Electric power
- Industry 3.0: Computing power
- Industry 4:0: Internet of Things power
Industry 4.0 is a term created in Germany and is used primarily in Europe now. These are advances that are used in manufacturing to a certain extent today but they are somewhat isolated. Industry 4.0 will coordinate them in a production flow that is fully integrated, automated, and optimized; re-defining the relationship between suppliers, producers, and customers—as well as between human and machine.
These hallmark technologies of Industry 4.0 include:
- Big Data and Analytics
- The Industrial Internet of Things
- Additive Manufacturing
- Augmented Reality
- Autonomous Robots
Given the focus of this article, I will only discuss the autonomous robot aspect. These robots won’t be in cages separated from people for safety as they’ve been for decades. These new robots are and will be more autonomous, flexible, and cooperative. They will interact not only with each other but with people, working side by side, learning from their human co-workers as they go.
Moshe Vardi says:
“We are approaching the time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task. Society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: if machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?
A typical answer is that we will be free to pursue leisure activities. [But] I do not find the prospect of leisure-only life appealing. I believe that work is essential to human well-being.”
I think that last part is total bullshit. How many people do you know who actually really look forward to work and wake up excited to get there? Some do, for sure, and they are (unreligiously) blessed and rare. My brother Jay and I often talk about what we’d do if we won a multi hundred million dollar lotto and had nothing but free time. I’d travel and write and create and spend time with my family and friends and binge Netflix like a champ. I’m passionate about many things and my well-being (and others) is best served by engaging these passions, thank you very much.
Some say that, at this point, these are theoretical risks. Culture is unpredictable. Just because work can be done by robots doesn’t mean they will. That attitude is naive I think. We are clearly in for major societal changes caused by robotic automation.
The best thing to do about robots taking away so many jobs is the same thing we have to do about other imminent disruptive technologies. PREPARE PREPARE PREPARE. The more we talk about it and anticipate the more we’ll be able to deal with it when it comes.
One way to deal with this was in that Citibank report. They say that many workers will have to retrain as jobs are lost. They say that investment in education is the best thing that can be done to minimize disruption.
Ultimately though, this is just an interim issue I think. When we start seeing advanced molecular nanotechnology and the intelligence explosion of Artificial Intelligences, that will be Industry 5.0 (or perhaps its ultimate expression…The Singularity). No one’s jobs will be safe no matter what you do or how smart you are. That could be an amazing thing or quite the opposite. Our goal in the next generation or two should be to increasingly focus on reaping all of the potential benefits of these transformative technologies and prevent its abuse.
Either way, it’s gonna be a helluva ride, people
Image Credit: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/happens-robots-can-jobs/