300 million jobs lost to AI

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, there have been threats that new machines—from mechanized looms to microchips—would usurp human jobs. For the most part, the people won. Now, some experts say, with ubiquitous Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the horizon, the threat is real: Robots may even take over some jobs.

A March 2023 report from Goldman Sachs estimated that AI could do a quarter of all work currently done by humans. In the European Union and the US, the report also shows, 300 million jobs could be lost due to automation. And that could be awful, says Martin Ford, author of Rule of the Robots: How Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Everything.

“It’s not just that this would happen to individuals, but it could be quite systemic,” he says. “It could happen to a lot of people, potentially quite suddenly, potentially all at the same time. And that has implications not just for these individuals, but for the entire economy.”

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. Experts preface their warnings with a caveat: There are still things AI isn’t capable of—tasks that involve distinctly human qualities like emotional intelligence and thinking outside the box. And moving into roles that focus on those skills could help reduce the risk of being replaced.

There are three categories that will be relative safe in the near future. “The first would be jobs that are really creative: you’re not doing formula work or just rearranging things, but really coming up with new ideas and building something new,” says Ford.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that all jobs that are considered “creative” are safe. In fact, things like graphic design and visual art roles can be taken over by AI; underlying algorithms can direct a bot to analyze millions of images, allowing AI to master aesthetics instantly. But there is a certain safety in other kinds of creativity, says Ford: “in science, medicine and law… people whose job it is to come up with a new legal strategy or business strategy. I think there will continue to be a place there for human beings.”

The second isolated category, he continues, are jobs that require sophisticated interpersonal relationships. He points to nurses, business consultants and investigative journalists. These are jobs, he says, “where you need a very deep understanding of people. I think it will be a long time before AI has the ability to interact in ways that truly build relationships.”

The third safe zone, says Ford, “are jobs that really require a lot of mobility and dexterity and problem-solving ability in unpredictable environments“. Many jobs—think electricians, plumbers, welders, and the like—fall under this umbrella. “These are the kind of jobs where you’re dealing with a new situation all the time,” he adds. “They are probably the hardest to automate. To automate such jobs, you would need a science fiction robot. You need C-3PO from Star Wars.”

While humans will likely remain in jobs that fall into these categories, that doesn’t mean those professions are totally insulated from the rise of AI. In fact, says Joanne Song McLaughlin, associate professor of labor economics at the University of Buffalo in the US, most jobs, regardless of industry, have aspects that are likely to be automated by technology.

In many cases, there is no immediate threat to jobs,” she says, “but tasks will change.” Human jobs will become more focused on interpersonal skills, Song McLaughlin continues. “It is easy to imagine that, for example, AI will detect cancers much better than humans could. In the future, I assume that doctors will use that new technology. But I don’t think the whole role of the doctor will be replaced.

While a robot may do a better job of finding cancer, she says, most people will still want a doctor — a real person — to tell them about it. This is true for almost all jobs, she adds, and so developing those uniquely human skills could help people learn to do their jobs alongside AI.

I think it’s smart to really think, «what kind of tasks in my job will be replaced or better done by computer or AI? And what is my complementary skill?“”. She points to bank tellers, who once had to be very precise in counting money, for example. Now this task has been automated – but there is still a place for the cashier. “The task of counting money has become obsolete because of a machine,” she says. “But now, cashiers are more focused on connecting with customers and introducing new products. Social skill has become more important.”

It’s important to note, Ford says, that an advanced education or a high-paying position is no defense against an AI takeover. “We might think that white collar workers are higher up the food chain than someone who drives a car for a living“, he says. “But the future of the white-collar worker is more threatened than the Uber driver, because we don’t have self-driving cars yet, but AI can certainly write reports. In many cases, more educated workers will be more threatened than less educated workers. Think of the person who works cleaning hotel rooms – it is very difficult to automate this work.

In short, looking for roles in dynamic, changing environments that include unpredictable tasks is a good way to prevent job losses to AI. At least for a while.


Source: Cotidianul RO by www.cotidianul.ro.

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