The Turing machine, the precursor to the modern computer developed during World War II, helped the Allied forces decipher German military codes and outflank the German military. Some historians say that without that technology the war would have last two years longer and several million more lives would have been lost. Today however, robots, which have grown out of this one invention, are predicted to take over the tasks of millions of workers, threatening to put huge swaths of the population out of work.
The World Economic Forum estimates that by the year 2020 5 million jobs in developed and emerging economies will have been taken over by robots and according to a study conducted by Oxford University researchers, over the next 20 years about 35% of jobs are at risk of being replaced by robots.
Nobody is spared
It is not the first time that machines are threatening to snatch jobs from people. During the 17th century industrial revolution, many people who had depended on farmhand work had to leave their jobs when mechanization came to place. But then mechanization led to a lot of production, which in turn created more jobs in the processing and transportation industries.
Many other instances of mechanization have always led to creation of jobs elsewhere. Moreover, only blue collar workers have been experiencing these displacements.
In the past, people could secure a future safe from machine competition by seeking college education. That, however, might not be possible in the future.
With the introduction of artificial intelligence, machines now have the potential to do almost everything. What a person spends years to study at the university,robots can learn in a matter of seconds.
Most vulnerable jobs
While the takeover threat exists in almost all areas, here are some of the most threatened white collar jobs:
Contrary to the general notion that correspondence work requires a human touch, robots are currently doing financial and sports reporting. Associated Press has been using artificial intelligence in some of its departments for a while now. The robots collect, analyze and write scripts for financial and sports news presentations on their own.
AP claims that this technology has immensely reduced time and human resource expenditures. Interestingly, the AI can even conduct interviews.
Fedex is working on plans to trim down its hundreds of pilots to only four people. These individuals will sit in a control room and monitor all the hundreds of daily flights from there, with robots doing most of the tasks. If this plan succeeds, many other flight companies will definitely follow suit.
Apparently, computers can create better emails than humans. Persado, a natural language software firm, has developed software that analyzes thousands of past emails that generated good leads, and uses their sentence structure and phrases to create new emails.
The stock market is probably one of the industries with the highest computer penetration. Record keepers, data collectors, and middlemen have rapidly been pushed out of the industry since the 1980’s.
However, the introduction of artificial intelligence is bound to cause an even higher storm if the trials being made by Aidiya, Renaissance Technologies, San Francisco Technologies, and other firms live up to their promises. When AI takes over the stock market, all small firms, which cannot afford the high cost machines might have to say goodbye to the business.
Even if you are the most carefree individual, procedures like pap test, colonoscopy and digital rectal examination would still give you a tinge of an unsettling feeling- especially if they are done by a doctor of the opposite gender- right? Well, you can now relax; licensing of robots that carry out these and other procedures is underway.
Currently, the FDA has already approved a doctor robot known as Sedasys; it can carry out colonoscopies and administer anesthesia. IBM has also developed a cancer screening robot known as Watson.
Have you heard about the hotel in Japan which is completely run by robots? How about the Grishin Robot that teaches mathematics better than a human teacher? These are just a few areas where robots will be ruling soon. The robot threat is real.
Why prefer robots
The preference for robots is not purely a matter of greed. Yes, robots are cheaper because they don’t ask for holidays and have no sick leaves; it is true that robots do not form unions that demand salary increments every other year; robot do not take employers to court; but there is more to it.
Many activists who are mourning over the robot takeover forget to mention that half-baked graduates have flooded the market. The low competence of fresh job entrants worldwide is more than worrying.
Despite the good exam performances and government reports indicating improved educational standards, employers think otherwise. One reason why AP implemented artificial intelligence in their news desk was to eliminate errors in reporting; the company says that it has achieved 100 percent reporting accuracy since it started using these robots.
Robots are not the problem
It is no secret that a robot can handle the job you currently do better than you. It is not only versatile; it learns fast, it can work 24-hours a day seven days a week, it’s more accurate, it’s smart, it has all the good qualities that are appropriate to the specific environment it was made for. But robots aren’t the problem- there is no crime in being smart.
Although robots aren’t to blame (and neither are their creators), the challenge facing societies, particularly in the developed world, is how to benefit from the efficiencies and cost savings that robots provide without causing mass segments of the population to become unemployed and poor. Besides the danger posed to the jobs and livelihood of the millions of workers replaced by robots, this change will bring about radical changes to the societal framework, will likely widen the already growing income gap and bring into question what types of new jobs will be created to support the robotic revolution. This is a big a wakeup call for leaders in the business world, the top thinkers in academia and world leaders to think about these issues and to start planning for solutions.