Amazon has several stores where users can buy items without making lines and paying a cashier. This is very convenient for the customers because much of the time is wasted waiting in line and paying. However, there is a downside to this because there will be fewer employees and if it is applied in most stores, there will be a lot of people losing their jobs. This is one of the problems that people see with the introduction of artificial intelligence to the workplace.
In the book, A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond by Daniel Susskind, the author remarks the following referring to automation in some areas:
…take the capabilities of human beings that involve dealing with the physical world, such as performing manual labor and responding to what we see around us. Traditionally, this physical and psychomotor aptitude was put to economic use in agriculture. But over the last few centuries, that sector has become increasingly automated. There are now driverless tractors and cow-milking machines, cattle-herding drones, and automated cotton strippers. There are tree-shaking robots that harvest oranges, vine-pruning robots that collect grapes, and vacuum-tube-wielding robots that suck apples off the trees. There are fitness trackers that monitor animal well-being, camera systems that detect unhealthy produce, and autonomous sprayers that drop fertilizer on crops and pesticides on weeds. In Japan, for example, 90 percent of crop spraying is done by unmanned drones. One British farm plants nurture, and harvests barley without a person setting foot in the field at all.
These are some examples of where AI has replaced us as cheaper labor. The technological development that society is facing today is nothing new and we as a society have always adapted to these changes. We have replaced horses with cars, candles with light bulbs, or mail with electronic mail. They are all part of the economic growth of a nation or society. Artificial Intelligence is just another step that we are taking as a society to improve our lives.
The things that we take for granted today, people two hundred years ago might find unbelievable. How do you explain the internet to somebody from the 1800s? How can you tell them that you now can communicate with someone across the world anytime via a device that allows you to have a normal conversation like you were in the same room? A middle-class family has more items at their disposal to make their life better than a millionaire family had one hundred years ago. The same applies to advances in medicine and other areas of society. But as AI is taking over some of our jobs, we have to recognize that we will always survive because we have done it before.
It is true that AI will replace a lot of manual or repetitive jobs. But, remember the radio replacing the newspaper, the tv replacing the radio, and the internet replacing the tv, but in the end, it did not happen. If they have value, they stay around and that is what we need to think of AI replacing anything. If our job provides value, it won’t be replaced 100% by AI. However, it could be augmented or improved by using AI where needed. For example, see AI in some jobs like augmented reality providing information and insights needed to make better decisions. Even with the use of AI, we will be responsible for the outcome of the work done. Artificial Intelligence could hallucinate and give you the wrong information. Hence, we cannot depend fully on these tools in the real world without an expert in the field to monitor and take the last decision.
Some jobs might disappear with the implementation of artificial intelligence. But, other ones will be created once we adopt and adapt to them just like we did with other technological advancements. A long time ago, the computer was an occupation for a person that made calculations way before electronic computers existed. Today, the same terms refer to the machine that replaced this occupation or made the life easier for the person in charge of making the calculations.
Susskind, D. (2020). A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond. United States: Henry Holt and Company.