Will Artificial Intelligence Take our Jobs?

“Artificial Intelligence is likely to be either the worst thing or the best thing to happen to humanity”- Stephen Hawking.

Regarding the impact of AI on jobs/the economy, this paper examines AI’s pros and cons, and the upshot is, we should be worried about AI taking jobs, eventually at least.

Quick Background

The concept of Artificial Intelligence was first introduced through science fiction. The concept was then developed and researched by scientists starting from the 1940s. The first step towards the goal was the Logic Theory Machine. This was a machine created in 1956 to imitate the way humans think to solve complex problems, a first sign that machines could now do work involving intelligence that normally only a human could do (AI writes, 2018).

Taking or Creating Jobs?

Artificial Intelligence has come a long way since the Logic Theory Machine, and as it is developing faster than ever, it raises concerns: the most immediate concern for most people is whether intelligent machines will be taking over many jobs. In the near future, they will take over the dangerous jobs and jobs that are repetitive. Instead of risking a human’s life, we can get a robot to dispose of bombs, as they are considered as expendable. An example of a repetitive task is a bus driver who spends his/her day driving in circles. For those with few real skills, all jobs could be taken over by machines.

There are a few reasons why some people are not too concerned about jobs being taken over by machines. One reason is that AI cannot replicate emotions, which are necessary in certain leadership roles, such as sales managers who need a certain level of emotional intelligence in order to work with their sales team and their customers in order to meet sales quotas. Another reason we do not need to worry at the moment is that we still don’t know how to design machines with the ability to think creatively – we are a long way from a robot graphics designer or screenwriter.

The most important reason we could be positive actually about AI instead, is that it creates jobs. In order to have an Artificially Intelligent machine working for a company, it must be designed, trained and managed, thus creating new jobs. The only question is whether the amount of jobs created will be equal to, or better yet, exceed the amount of jobs lost.

Tyler Cowen, an economics professor from George Mason University, states “[Artificial Intelligence] will take away a lot of jobs that will mostly hurt young, physically capable males. That will continue to be a real social problem”(Illing, 2017). In their book ‘The Second Machine Age’,two MIT Sloan School of Management Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee prove that even though U.S. GDP has increased impressively since 1999, for the first time since the Great Depression, the top 10% of people are now making 50% of the total income. The median wage, which is the wage that is directly in the middle with half of the data above it and half of the data below it, has actually dropped since 1999. However, the average wage continues to rise. This happens because the highest paid people are gaining more money resulting in the average wage getting higher, but the regular working person is making less money which causes the median wage to be lower. As time goes on, the income gap between the regular citizens and the top 10% continues to grow. In addition, Brynjolfsson and McAfee predict that median wages will drop a drastic amount, stating that “If the work a person produces in an hour can instead be produced by a machine for one dollar, then a profit-maximizing employer wouldn’t offer a wage for that job for more than one dollar” (Brynjolfsson & Mcafee, 2014). This leaves that potential employee with two options: to accept the extremely low wage of one dollar an hour, or to let the machine take that job and find a new job that a machine might not take… but where will he/she get the money and support necessary to make that transition?

Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are talking about Congress allocating money for retraining, or offering any other kind of  support for people to make a transition to another profession. Even if this happens, there are problems that come with this: the main problem is that there are going to be so many people specializing in these jobs that there are still going to be people unemployed because there are not enough positions to have everyone employed. Which makes any solution improbable because, as efficiency gains are made in manufacturing and distribution on account of AI, more and more people including potentially skilled people will be out of work.

Contrasting this view, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) claims that “[Artificial Intelligence machines] will rarely be able to substitute an entire occupation, which, in most cases, requires much more versatility and adaptability.” UNDESA believes that rather than taking jobs, Artificial Intelligence will assist humans in doing them:“Throughout history, technological innovations have enhanced the productivity of workers.”

Conclusion

Even though both points are valid, the point that must be worried about is the prediction that the rich will continue to get richer due to the fact that they do not have to pay higher wages as efficiency gains are made through AI, and the threat this poses to the average person who is unskilled. Although there are certain jobs that cannot be taken away as they require emotional intelligence which AI-machines are not capable of, such as teaching and nursing, most people are employed in low skill jobs that are repetitive. Even careers that are seen as requiring high-level skills like accounting are perhaps one day at risk as well: an accountant needs  to calculate/analyze numbers, which AI machines are already good at. To summarize, the concern for jobs being taken is legitimate, and ultimately may prove to be an irresistible force that remakes the world of work as we know it.

 

References

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Artificial intelligence, robots and the future of work | CBC Radio. (2018, July 24). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/artificial-intelligence-robots-and-the-future-of-work-1.4286200

ERIK BRYNJOLFSSON ANDREW MCAFEE – USP. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=F963F2D67E8846D0B224CCF415897DA5&CID=09875A7C4DD86E3E032256304C256F03&rd=1&h=g5lcs0gFsNjUBwFWsGi8LH9s6ElqD4d79m4wfbR0wGA&v=1&r=https://edisciplinas.usp.br/pluginfile.php/622156/mod_resource/content/1/Erik-Brynjolfsson-Andrew-McAfee-Jeff-Cummings-The-Second-Machine-Age.pdf&p=DevEx.LB.1,5886.1

Goldfarb, A. A. (2017, February 17). The Simple Economics of Machine Intelligence. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2016/11/the-simple-economics-of-machine-intelligence

Illing, S. (2017, September 10). Tyler Cowen doesn’t believe in progress, and he wishes you didn’t either. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/conversations/2016/9/28/12988040/tyler-cowen-donald-trump-artificial-intelligence-obama-game-of-thrones

Is Artificial Intelligence a threat or an opportunity for jobs? (2018, April 26). Retrieved from https://www.debatingeurope.eu/2018/04/24/live-debate-artificial-intelligence-jobs-threat-opportunity/#.W1YJCdhKg_M

Newell and Simon’s Logic Theorist: Historical Background and Impact on Cognitive Modeling. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/154193120605000904?journalCode=proe

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Will Artificial Intelligence take over jobs? (2018, January 23). Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/ites/will-artificial-intelligence-take-over-jobs/articleshow/62610145.cms

Will robots and AI cause mass unemployment? Not necessarily, but they do bring other threats | UN DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/policy/will-robots-and-ai-cause-mass-unemployment-not-necessarily-but-they-do-bring-other-threats.html

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