Do Not Expect Bot-led Workplace Superstars Anytime Soon

Do Not Expect Bot-led Workplace Superstars Anytime Soon

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_column_text]Media outlets all over the world are finding a new global villain in the person of robots that feature artificial intelligence capabilities and will supposedly replace humans in the workforce. Bots are a good target to practice one’s apocalyptic style writing skills – they cannot defend themselves, robots cannot file a lawsuit, and most readers do not fully understand what actually artificial intelligence (AI) is or what types of AI are out there. Recent media stories about robots taking out workplaces from humans even give a new life to the discussion about a guaranteed minimum income – a debate that was not on the table for some half a century.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_custom_heading text=”The Jobless Future Myth” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:left” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Media such as NBC News claim repeatedly that we face a grim future where almost all the jobs will be automated.

“So delivery and truck drivers, professors, brokers in the investment business, and accountants will likely become redundant, but so will lawyers…” – NBC News.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]It is a bit of a strange claim taking into account that unemployment rates are at historic lows in both North America and Europe. The growing number of automated manufacturing facilities or increasing levels of automation in fields ranging from production to marketing to accounting do not offset this trend of creation of new jobs.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_single_image image=”1048″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Positions that are disappearing or are being replaced by AI-powered systems are largely in fields that do not require secondary or tertiary education or where hard physical labor is involved. It is not that bad to reduce the number of physical labor jobs performed by human beings and focus on knowledge-based activities instead, after all.

The above chart says it all – all jobs that fail into the category of the fastest disappearing jobs across the U.S. are positions that are labor-intensive or are performed on a sort of an assembly line. Preserving those type of jobs would mean trying to stop progress, which is largely unadvisable and actually impossible.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_custom_heading text=”Narrow vs General AI” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]A good number of media pundits never point at the difference between narrow AI and general artificial intelligence. It is a huge and very impactful difference. Narrow AI, by definition, is capable of performing certain tasks or solving certain problems within a narrow field of expertise such as assembling cars in a car factory. This type of robot can and will replace humans in many areas where high level of accuracy is required and where monotonous work results in human errors.

On the other hand, general AI is more close to the Hollywood’s idea of an almighty artificial intelligence. Such a general AI, however, is not necessarily evil. Its main distinguishing property compared to narrow AI is that such a bot or AI system is capable of communicating with humans, understand ideas and procedures, and take autonomous decisions while learning from past experience in the process. If you are paranoid about robots, this is the kind of AI you should fear from.

Emergence of feasible general AI, and bots that would possibly outsmart humans in many jobs, is set for a distant future, though. Most reputable experts and researchers agree that we’ll not witness it before 50 or more years from now. Sure, we should discuss the possible consequences but there is no imminent threat while new professions are emerging on daily basis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt explains before CNBC:

“We have to make them [employees] more productive through automation, through tools. So I’m convinced that there is in fact going to be a jobs shortage. There is going to be jobs that are unfulfilled, and that the way we’ll fill them is to take people plus computers, and the computers will make people smarter. If you make the people smarter, their wages go up. They don’t go down, and the number of jobs go up, not down, if you see my point.”

What we should fear is actually shortage of skilled workers and white collars, not automation. Ask a Silicon Valley founder about the challenges of finding and retaining top talents in fields such as machine learning, quantum computing, blockchain and the like and you’ll get the point.
[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”How Many Jobs Robots Will Replace?
” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Some authors like Oxford professors Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne claim that between 35% and 47% of all jobs in the UK and the U.S. face high risk of automation by 2030. A report by PwC says that 30% to 38% of the jobs are at risk, respectively. Other think tanks, such as the experts at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), forecast some 9% to 10% of the jobs will be automated by 2030.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”1047″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]If we set for a median forecast, we get a figure of some 20% to 25% of all jobs being automated in the next decade or so. Does it sound apocalyptic? To some pundits, yes. Nonetheless, the authors of the PricewaterhouseCoopers report clearly state that:

“We also believe that new technologies like AI and robotics will create many new jobs. Some of these new jobs will relate directly to these new technologies, but most will just result from the general boost to productivity, incomes, and wealth that these technologies will bring. As these additional incomes are spent, this will generate additional demand for labor and so new jobs, as such technologies have done throughout history.”

Probably the main conclusion of the above-mentioned research is that numerous many new jobs will be created and the long term net effect should be positive for the economy as a whole. One should not focus on how many jobs will be automated or replaced but how wide implementation AI and robotics will create jobs.

[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_custom_heading text=”The Glass Is Half Full, Not Half Empty” use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]A recent research by consultants McKinsey, which Eric Schmidt is citing to support his opinion on emergence of new jobs, reads:

“Indeed, while this report is titled Jobs lost, jobs gained, it could have been, Jobs lost, jobs changed, jobs gained; in many ways a big part of this story is about how more occupations will change than will be lost as machines affect portions of occupations and people increasingly work alongside them.”

Researchers at McKinsey got it right, progress in the field of AI and robotics and wider implementation of related technologies rather create more job opportunities than obliterate job positions. Obviously, advancements in machine learning, voice and image recognition, and AI as a whole will disrupt the labor market, as we know it. This does not mean they will change it for worse or humans will lose jobs by the millions.

The Industrial revolution that happened in the XVIII and XIX centuries did not result in massive unemployment. A good number of farmers converted intoworkers and got factory jobs, which in turn made it possible to produce mass goods at scale laying the foundation for present day cheap consumer goods and appliances. Why should the AI and Automation revolution produce different results?

In addition, if someone is arguing that during the times of the Industrial revolution wages were stagnant for decades or working conditions were poor – this is not a technology problem, this is a problem of a government’s social and labor policy. With the right policies in place, automation and robotization can create more jobs while replacing undesired ones.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][/vc_column][/vc_row]