Will technology replace human jobs?
- The Logic Theorist program, generally believed to be the first artificial intelligence program, was “designed to mimic the problem-solving skills of a human” and was presented in 1956 at the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence.
- A recent Verdict poll revealed that 24% of respondents feel that technology could perform 81%-100% of their jobs.
- In 2017, Google’s AlphaZero algorithm learned to play chess, shogi, and GO by itself and also “defeated the best computers that had been fed instructions from human experts...in only eight hours of self-play...”
- PricewaterhouseCoopers reports that by the mid-2030s, 30% of jobs are “at potential risk of automation.”
From the cotton gin to the satellite-based crop monitoring that modern farms employ, technological advances have eliminated entire categories of jobs in the agriculture sector alone. However, across all industries, advances in labor replacement technologies surprisingly pair with labor reinstatement technologies. Even though technology can replace manual labor, technology management jobs become a necessity. For example, Amazon's recent deployment of 100,000 robots still allowed them to hire 80,000 new workers--the monotonous tasks for the robots, and the mentally engaging jobs for the humans. Automation does not kill net job growth but actually helps people become better at positions that cannot be fully automated.
Overlaying psychologist Robert Sternberg's Triarchic Theory of Intelligence (practical, creative, and analytical) in the workplace reveals two critical points. Firstly, AI has already surpassed human analytical intelligence. Secondly, human creativity and practicality cannot be replicated without, at a minimum, the inclusion and application of sensory awareness, imagination, and an experiential knowledge base. The first point necessitates that AI must be transparent and explainable to what may become massive new categories of employment involving human oversight. The second point demonstrates that within some job categories, humans cannot be replaced. Therefore, there can be no complete separation of humanity from the work accomplished by its technologies. And furthermore, technological advances create at least as many new jobs as they render old ones obsolete.
Robots may exceed human capabilities in precision movements, mechanical power, computational speed, and volume. However, despite these superhuman skills--and because of the limitations mentioned above--technology will never achieve consciousness, the catalyst to authentic creativity and empathy, which remains a wholly human province.
Technology is replacing and will replace most jobs done by humans in the near future, and this includes jobs that we never thought technology could replace, such as those in art and medicine.
One sector that is fast-tracking to automation is transportation--primarily due to the potential for savings. Truck driving is the most common job in 29 US states, yet Tesla, UBER, and Google are partnering with major truck manufacturers to develop technologies that will end reliance on human drivers to navigate the nation's interstates--probably in the next ten years.
Understandably, basic jobs involving cash registers and factory lines are monotonous and repetitive, and can be deftly handled by robotics and AI. But what about highly skilled and specialized jobs? What about artists and doctors?
AI can now produce better art than people can by using GAN (Generative Adversarial Network), an application that pits two AI neural networks against each other to examine the entire catalog of human art and then produce works based on what the AI feels is best.
Doctors are not immune to the exponential changes that technology is bringing to our society, either. For instance, AI can read x-ray images faster and more accurately than human eyes can, meaning computers may phase out medical specialists, like radiologists.
Technology will never replace all jobs, but most jobs will be replaced in the next 10-20 years, and they'll come from some surprising categories.
We will need to embrace this change as an opportunity to develop our lives in what could become a post-work world. Change is never easy, but it is the one constant in life that we can depend on.