Are Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI) Threats to Human Employment?
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is simply an attempt to create machines that mimic the human mind. Although AI has become the buzzword in tech circles in recent times, it’s not a new thing. Remember when Deep Blue beat the world best chess player in 1997?
The main idea behind AI is to perform repetitive, monotonous and possibly dangerous tasks with machines. Much of humanity will now be free to focus on higher intellectual pursuits that promise a better life.
AI can deliver results with precision and accuracy unmatched by humans and tirelessly too.
From transportation to education to medicine, Artificial Intelligence has been used to develop, improve, and enhance processes. AI has seen many uses that cut across numerous sectors of human society.
Self-driven school shuttles are being tested in Florida. Flippy – the cooking robot – can turn up a dish worthy of a highly rated chef. In MIT, researchers have been able to use a machine to ‘learn’ patients’ data and device less toxic and more effective therapy. In education, Cram101 developed by Content Technologies Inc uses AI to help break down difficult textbook content into easily digestible “smart” study guides.
The technology is everywhere, and every field of human endeavor that wants to remain competitive will do well to adopt it early on.
Can Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Replace Our Jobs?
In today’s labor market, jobs that are easier to automate are significantly more at risk of being replaced by AI. However, white collar jobs are not entirely safe.
Workers in manufacturing may have to look elsewhere. So also truck drivers, investment brokers, bankers, and even lawyers.
The impact of AI is being felt in the education industry. With competition from increasingly affordable online courses and high overhead cost of maintaining expensive infrastructure, many universities are at the risk of being shut down in a couple of decades
But despite all of these, the future isn’t all gloom and doom for human workers.
When the motor car was invented in the early 20th century and revolutionized the way we move, experts predicted job losses. However, while the horse groomers and carriage drivers were gradually left with little work to do, the motor car created far more jobs in manufacturing, transportation, repairs and more.
Current research carried out by Gartner , suggests that Artificial Intelligence is creating more jobs than it destroys. And it’s projected to add about 2 million jobs by 2025.
These new jobs will include software engineers as well as lower level jobs like training and overseeing the robots.
Although AI may disrupt the labor force, you do not always have to see it as the enemy. AI is also being used to help humans do their work more efficiently. For instance, Walmart has started tests on shelf scanning robots across 50 locations.
Robotics and artificial intelligence do not replace humans but rather make them work better.
The robots check all the shelf for out-of-stock products and inform them. This leaves humans with more time to concentrate on the task of replacing items on the shelf and taking care of problems noted by the robots. The customer, in turn, will have a better shopping experience since he won’t meet an empty shelf after spending time looking for an item.
Artificial Intelligence can be taught to handle tasks that require gathering, processing, and analysis of huge volumes of data. This number crunching ability has been of great help in industries that regularly deal with complex scenarios. For example, the pharmaceutical industry. It takes more than a decade and billions of dollars to develop a new drug, test, get it approved and bring it to the market.
Naturally, not all the drugs will make it through the trial phase. Some are dropped towards the end of the long process after billions have been spent already. With AI, it has been possible, leveraging on big data related to medicine and health, to reduce the failure rate during the trial phase. They can also be used to model the complex interactions of molecules to predict how they will behave inside the human body.
It has proved useful in selecting appropriate patients for clinical trials and identifying genetic biomarkers that make it possible to tailor drugs to particular individuals.
So, are the robots finally taking over?
Robots and AI is Still Dependant on Humans
AI and machines can help avoid costly and time-consuming human errors. But they still need humans to oversee their actions and prevent their own mistakes.
Despite their reputation for efficiency and accuracy- after all, a robot doesn’t drink, get tired or suffer heartbreak, there have been several documented cases of AI gone wild.
The first fatality to be recorded for self-driving vehicles involved an autonomous Tesla in full autopilot mode. The AI-driven vehicle mistook the broad white side of a tractor-trailer for the clear open skies and ran full tilt into it. There have been another autopilot -related collisions since then, though there hasn’t been a direct causative factor linking them to the failure of the AI.
Though no lives were lost, the recent attempt by Microsoft to hook up with the younger online crowd ended in a fiasco. Tay.ai, an AI-powered chatbot developed by the tech giant began to go astray within a day of her introduction to the online scene. It started trolling spewing hate speeches and anti-feminist rants while hailing Hitler. Microsoft quickly yanked it off with a promise to return it after redesigning the obviously faulty algorithm.
Errors, it seems, aren’t limited to imperfect humans only. Therefore, the activities of AI robots require some level of monitoring to ensure they work as intended. The margin for error narrows when AI is involved in health care, handling heavy or dangerous machinery and other critical functions.
Self-driving vehicles are touted as a solution to the problem of collisions caused by human error. However, nothing underlines the need for human oversight than the unfortunate fatal crash of a 2016 Tesla. From forensic investigations, it’s notable that the driver was alerted to take over controls of the vehicle seconds before the collision. Alas, he believed too much in the infallibility of the AI driver.
While we await a future where driverless cars and other automation are the norms, the Tesla crash and similar reported crashes does highlight the need for more vigilance and supervision of AI. At least, for the near future.
The uses and applications of Artificial Intelligence in our lives are becoming increasingly prevalent. The ways AI can enhance the activities of their human masters is limitless.
But there is also the real fear that these benefits come at a price; the loss of jobs.
It’s clear that AI is replacing humans in the workplace and it’s only going to get worse. On the other hand, it creates jobs as well.
Artificial Intelligence will need people to build, manage, train and supervise it.
The beauty of robotics and artificial intelligence is seen when it plays a complementary role to humans – handling tedious tasks freeing employees to pay attention to more profitable tasks; helping workers do a better job and doing stuff that humans find too tricky or dangerous to do.