It is not far when robots will soon steal our jobs. We have repeatedly heard predictions regarding this. These predictions play straight into people's darkest fears regarding technological advancement. When futurists talk about things that haven't happened yet, they are free to process guesses as true facts.
In a recent article, the MIT Technology Review tabulated the results of every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs and it shows that the expected impacts depend on what is measured.
Out of the 19 reports considered in the review, there was a tremendous difference. Some predicted that a few million jobs would be replaced, while others predicted that millions will be created in the same time period.
One of the futurists forecasted that a billion jobs will be lost to automation by 2022. In contrast to this, with more sober prediction from the research and advisory group, 1.8 million jobs are predicted to be lost by 2020, but with 2.3 million created in the same period, there is expected net increase of 500,000 over the next couple of years.
Here, we get such a huge difference. No one knows how many jobs will be lost and found in the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Trades were automated to produce greater economies of scale, but job losses were more than offset by the new jobs subsequently created. Meanwhile, trades like pottery, weaving and metalwork that were lost to automation 200 years ago are still being done by skilled craftspeople.
The overall number of jobs went up because of the new jobs created in the IT industry. Today there are dozens of technology job categories in computer hardware, programming, content production, web design, security, big data, sales and marketing, and artificial intelligence.
AI is only an extension of us. It is considered to be a separate entity from people, and sometimes seen as a dangerous rival. The reality is that it is merely a tool created by humans. It does what humans tell it to do and nothing more.
What we have is narrow AI, that only suits to particular tasks and activities. There is still advancement seen in AI. It is autonomous general AI. This AI is considered to be superior to the spectrum of human intelligence and is still many decades away.
AI can greatly improve people's competence in the workplace. There had been cases when AI has helped to save someone's life. It was the combination of human doctors and a diagnostic AI that succeeded where the human doctors alone had failed.
AI maximizes the benefits and minimize the harm. Humans have always excelled at critical thinking and problem solving, good communication and teamwork, leadership, initiative, creativity. And of course, the willingness to leverage the current technology.
Futurists tend to assume that if a job can be automated, it will be automated. But that is certainly not true. AI will automate some jobs, particularly the dangerous and tedious ones that people aren't willing to do. For example, Manual welding can produce highly toxic fumes. It is a prime candidate for automation.
Lastly, some jobs will always be done by people and the reasons can vary greatly, from economic to social reasons. Some jobs are simply not practical for robots to do. So, AI will not completely steal the jobs for humans.