Job Security In The Age Of Machine Intelligence

There is so much excitement and anticipation about the future that artificial intelligence will create and the meaning it will add to our lives. We all cannot wait to experience that future where the most fascinating sci-fi will become our reality. As agitated as we are about the AI-driven future, there is a potential threat that these intelligent systems will shove aside humans from the workplace. The advent of machine intelligence will influence a skyrocketing increase in automation and many jobs will be forced into extinction.

A McKinsey report predicts that between 400 million and 800 million individuals could have their jobs displaced by automation by 2030. Already, we have begun to see humans being replaced by intelligent machines. Drivers are now being replaced by self-driving cars. Robots are rapidly replacing factory workers. Most HR roles are also being automated already. The current-day interruption of work by intelligent computers exposes us to just a glimpse of what is to come in the near future where we have more sophisticated and highly intelligent systems that significantly outperform humans in countless human-dominated roles. In the future, the need for a human customer care representative may be totally eliminated. Robots will be able to execute more complex medical operations and will drastically reduce the need for a human doctor or surgeon more than we see today. The world may have no need for human police, as they can be replaced by extremely sophisticated robotic police officers. The World Economic Forum forecasts that by 2025, “more than half of all current workplace tasks will be performed by machines, as opposed to 29% today.” Particularly, certain kinds of jobs are more vulnerable to replacement by automation or intelligent systems. Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, believes that “If your job is boring and repetitive, you’re probably at great risk of automation.”

Although the future of humanity, particularly in terms of job security, is threatened by the rise of automation and intelligent computers, the need for humans cannot be totally eradicated. In the opinion of Anders Sandberg, Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, “If your job can be easily explained it can be automated. If it can’t, it won’t.” 

Beyond automation, however, a lot of tasks that are significantly human can still be replaced by AI. However, AI still falls below humans in some critical tasks. As fascinating as AI is, AI will find it difficult to perform well in tasks that it has never observed before. In reality, the workplace is confronted by a number of decisions and actions that cannot be determined from previous observations. These tasks require the expertise of humans and their innate ability to deliver impressive results in novel challenges. The indispensability of humans in specific tasks preserves a job spot that cannot be completely occupied by AI, but can only be made easier for the human through the use of AI.

By 2022, 75 million jobs will be displaced by automation and 133 million new ones will be generated worldwide, according to a World Economic Forum research. This results in a net positive of 58 million new jobs. Statistics like this suggest that the rise of intelligent computers will not wipe out entire job industries but will likely expand the amount of jobs that are available to humans. Artificial intelligence will significantly increase global productivity, thus, eliminating a chunk of low-skill labour roles. However, this industrial transformation will also introduce a vacuum for high-skill labour positions as our machines and computers become overwhelmingly intelligent. The birth of the internet, accelerated job growth and created new opportunities globally, whilst putting a lot of traditional jobs at the risk of extinction. In the same vein, the rise of artificial intelligence has redefined the future of work and will continue to do so, whilst eliminating some jobs and generating new ones.

The rising integration of intelligent systems into our world, tests a crucial characteristic of human nature— adaptability. The future of work, and the security of jobs for humans, will be largely driven by how much people will be able to adapt to the rapidly changing tides of artificial intelligence and other technological advancements. Artificial intelligence is evolving exponentially. Humans, too, have to evolve once again to secure a spot in the unpredictable future. 

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