Advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation will transform our world. The current debate centers not on whether these changes will take place but on how, when, and where the impact of artificial intelligence will hit hardest. In this post, I'll be exploring both optimistic and pessimistic views of artificial intelligence, automation, job loss, and the future. Questions around the impact of artificial intelligence and automation are critical for us to consider. While technology isn't inherently good or evil, in the hands of humans, technology has a great capacity for both.
When it comes to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automation, there is no debate that advances in these areas will engender profound changes in our world. Rather, the debate centers on what these changes might look like. There are many who express concern or even outright fear about the impact of AI on our future, and with good reason. A recent report from Forrester predicts that by 2021, intelligent agents and related robots will have eliminated 6% of a net jobs. A widely noted study, "The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerisation?", estimates that 47% of all US jobs are at risk.
According to sources in the recruitment industry, the year 2018 is going to witness a massive increase in demand for professionals with expertise in emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning. Even though people specializing in Big Data and Analytics will still be sought after, AI and ML are going to be the next big thing.
Displaced workers transition to new jobs, some of which are created by automation. The government helps to facilitate this transition via investments in training and education. Increased productivity raises incomes, lowers work hours (average work time in the U.S. has fallen more than 50% since the early 1900s5), and lowers prices, creating more demand for goods and services, leading to more jobs and broader economic growth. How well do we expect this pattern to hold with AI-enabled automation in the near future, and will they replace jobs faster than they create them?
In the recent presidential election, automation and robotics got a slight reprieve from the accusations that it has been the key driver in job losses in the United States. During the campaign, the conversation shifted, thanks largely to then-candidate Trump's masterful scapegoating of Mexico and China, while calling out trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership as clear and present threats to U.S. manufacturing. Indeed, the administration continues to downplay automation as a factor in the U.S. economy, because that explanation runs against the political policies it hopes to enact under the guise of improving the conditions of America's workforce. On Friday, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin dismissed the prospects of artificial intelligence and automation eroding the workforce. "I'm not worried at all" about robots displacing humans in the near future, he said, adding: "In fact I'm optimistic." But even as some politicians look to divert attention from the issue, public focus returned to the evils of automation. The New York Times ran a story titled "The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China.