Although most people don't realize it, AI is already helping humanity to meet some growing challenges. It's being used to help us care for the elderly and take care of our children, and that's probably just the beginning. These days, there's plenty of talk about how artificial intelligence (AI) is going to impact the business processes of companies around the globe, but asking the average person about the human toll of artificial intelligence is likely to result in some vague reference to the Terminator franchise or a snarky quip about "our new robot overlords". In reality, though, artificial intelligence is already impacting the human condition in some important ways, even if people don't recognize it yet. Far from being part of some dystopian future story, AI is already being applied to solve some significant looming societal issues.
Japan and Germany may be sitting on a ticking demographic time bomb where aging populations begin to drag down economic growth. Increased automation and more use of robotic technology in these manufacturing powerhouses could help cushion the impact, according to Moody's Investors Service. "To the extent that robots can undertake activity that require labor, they will compensate for the negative impact that a slower growth in labor force would have otherwise had on growth," Moody's analysts wrote in the report this month. Dependency ratios -- the share of those older than 65 years of the total population -- are projected to soar in both Germany and Japan. But these countries have two things going for them.
Gallows humor, they call it. "A robot will do my job soon," they say, as they toil in their factory or lawyer's office. For many, it's hard to imagine what they might do next, except, in a fanciful thought, train as a mechanic fixing robots. Yet the more optimistic sorts claim that automation will bring new jobs, new ways and new opportunities to improve life for all. I was a little downcast, therefore, to read three recent papers by two influential economists, Daron Acemoglu of MIT and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University.
The United Nations forecasts that the global population will rise from 7.3 billion to nearly 10 billion by 2050, a big number that often prompts warnings about overpopulation. Some have come from neo-Malthusians, who fear that population growth will outstrip the food supply, leaving a hungry planet. Others appear in the tirades of anti-immigrant populists, invoking the specter of a rising tide of humanity as cause to slam borders shut. Still others inspire a chorus of neo-Luddites, who fear that the "rise of the robots" is rapidly making human workers obsolete, a threat all the more alarming if the human population is exploding. They may be the one thing that can protect the global economy from the dangers that lie ahead.
When you look more closely at estimates that one-third or one-half of jobs will be "automated," the evidence actually tends to show that one-third to one-half of jobs will be changed in the future by use of technology. Maybe some of those jobs will disappear, but in many other cases, the job itself will evolve, as jobs tends to do over time. Of course, it's a lot less exciting to have a headline which says: "The information technology you use at your job is going to keep changing change in ways that affect what you do at work." Qualifier 2 – job creation from automation An overall view of the effects of automation on jobs also needs to take into account how, over time and in the present, automation has also led to the creation of many new jobs. Lest we forget, the US unemployment rate before the pandemic hit was under 4%, which certainly doesn't look like evidence that total jobs are being reduced.