The biggest question on every worker’s mind is whether artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to replace humans in the workforce. The answer is complicated, but there is reason to believe that as the workplace evolves, so too will the worker.
Artificial intelligence (AI) should actually be referred to as “augmented intelligence” because a self-aware independently thinking machine does not exist outside of science fiction. However, this does not mean that everyone’s job is necessarily safe. The AI systems that exist today have limited abilities to program themselves or alter seed programming based on certain parameters. They can do jobs that include generating mailing lists, analyzing data and making predictions, sorting objects and assembling. AIs can solve problems but only to the extent for which they are programmed.
AI is considered unlikely to replace all human jobs, and the question remains as to the type of jobs that will result from AI joining the workforce and how long these jobs will last. The emergence of new skills requires new training and education. New courses will have to be added to the curriculum, and these institutions will be challenged to keep up with an evolving economy resulting from the rapid assimilation of artificial intelligence. AI is poised to have a significant impact on jobs, but its full extent is largely dependent on the industry involved and the technology that emerges in the coming years.
Recent attempts to use AI without human input or replace humans in many jobs have resulted in failure. Reasons for this include key inherent differences between AI and human thought. Completely circumventing humans amplify these differences. Talent, life experience and dealing with failure are not inherent in an AI’s initial programming. Humans can use instinct, something AIs have yet to develop. This has been proven in the medical field as health care professionals realize they cannot always trust a computer to correctly diagnose a patient’s illness.
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A doctor’s diagnosis based on experience and the patient-doctor relationship are almost impossible for an AI to duplicate due to the human factor. The greatest barrier is that the AIs, although capable of assimilating information rapidly, are always going to be no better than their programmer’s ability. The largest job market to be created by the advent of AI is going to be updating and correcting software problems and dealing with the outcomes of critical mistakes from using AI in areas where mistakes cannot be tolerated. Mistakes will happen, and AIs may not know how to react and fix mistakes as humans do.
AIs may have a detrimental effect on jobs related to administrative work, customer service, fast food, accounting, assembly line jobs and other areas where machines are already replacing human laborers. This is because machines do not need to take breaks, can work long hours, do not get sick or retire. Repetitive and mundane jobs are likely to be taken over by AI. Studies suggest, however, that small businesses and entrepreneurial businesses may benefit from AIs doing the time-consuming jobs, freeing up humans to perform other tasks more suitable for them, such as making more sales calls and applying creative thinking to promote business and new products.
Many economists are not optimistic about the impact of artificial intelligence on the job market, now or in the future. According to one highly regarded study by the Oxford Martin School in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that 47 percent of the jobs in the United States are at risk. The authors assessed the susceptibility of jobs to computerization. They analyzed the impact of artificial intelligence on approximately 700 occupations.
Artificial intelligence has advantages over humans in speed, processing, handling of large amounts of information with a degree of reliability that humans cannot match. Sophisticated algorithms not constrained to human coding, such as self-programming abilities, can offer solutions to problems that would not occur to a human programmer. Replacing human judgment in such instances is only going to become more common. A positive side of this is that in freeing up humans from these jobs workers will have more time for other tasks.
Technological advances in designing mobile robots with better sensors will result in lower prices for robots. Prices for robots and robotic technology are expected to drop by 50 percent in the next decade, saving corporations vast sums of money. The economic effects will result in an expansion of uses for robotic and AI technology. This will naturally result in a loss of human jobs in areas such as fast food services, health care, packaging and shipping, maintenance, cleaning and construction. Low-wage occupations may be the first to suffer from AI. Based on these projections, workers in the future must be better prepared to take more skilled jobs AI workers cannot fill.
Humans retain certain advantages over artificial intelligence based on their superior abilities to perform well in complex environments. Unstructured work environments may be easier for humans to navigate, but robots may find it difficult to make sense of these environments and function adequately.
Additionally, humans can make use of biofeedback whereas AI cannot. Robots have not been able to achieve the fine manipulative skills and sensory perception that humans are capable of. It may be decades until AI technology reaches this level of sophistication. Thus, the impact on the majority of jobs currently seems to be small. However, in as soon as 10 years, with advancements in technology, this could shift dramatically.
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