The throttle of the steam engine and the gleaming furnaces of cast iron marked the onset of a new era in the timeline of humanity which later laid the foundation of the modern world. We call this phase the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th century, responsible for changing lives of people all over the world in distinct ways.
At the dawn of 21st century, we are at the brink of yet another technological revolution that will be brought by the advancement in Artificial Intelligence and the astronomical growth of the internet. Just like its predecessor, it will leave the face of human existence unrecognizable considering the kind of future it has to offer; but, before it can become a reality, there are certain challenges that are needed to be met, to make sure that the world is ready for it.
The opponents of this uprising are already worried about its negative impacts (such as shortage of jobs and growth of killer AI), but in its very essence, this is the transformation that we all need; a paradigm shift in the type of work we do and the type of life we live – for the betterment of us all.
What Do We Understand By Artificial Intelligence?
Intelligence can be defined as the inherent ability to acquire and apply a skill or knowledge; when machines learn to do so, it is called Artificial Intelligence. The best part of teaching a machine to be intelligent is that it can take care of the task assigned to it in a more efficient way than a human.
The same has been proven in many instances, such as when the AI named ‘AlphaGo’ developed by Google’s DeepMind defeated the world champion in a game called ‘Go’ by 4 – 1 last year. Also, earlier this month, another AI developed by a team at the University of Alberta, named ‘DeepStack’ defeated humans at Poker.
AI is able to do all of this by machine learning algorithms. In regular language, these are programs that enable a computer to take decisions on its own by analyzing and organizing the data fed to it. Just like dogs (who have biological intelligence) can be made to learn a number of things by training, machines can also learn (and not merely memorize) to perform highly complex tasks like humans do.
The Versatility of AI
Artificially Intelligent systems are highly versatile. They have started to conquer domains that were assumed to be beyond the reach of computers, such as the Poker game that was just mentioned.
AI is already into Big Data management, marketing, driving cars, business solutions, medication and even wildlife preservation. This makes it a suitable contender for bringing about the sort of revolution that we talked about.
As AI becomes better, it will slowly surpass humans in doing tasks that are only meant to be done by a human (as of now), and by greater efficiency. One such example backing up this statement would be when two robots performed a full surgery on a human at Montreal General Hospital in 2010. So, is it about time that doctors go jobless?
The Effect of AI on Jobs and Careers
A recent news stated that a Chinese factory replaced 90% of its workers with robots and production rose by 250% whereas defects dropped by 80%. It was not surprising that advanced automation did so, but what was surprising is that it happened in China, where cheap labor is easily available. This event gives a nice harbinger of how the future is going to be, and for all the right reasons.
Today, most of the people in the world who are doing a job are employed by the private sector. People owning this sector always want the profits to go through the roof and as the world becomes highly competent, these companies would naturally root for robots than humans to get their jobs done. A robot doesn’t require leaves and can work 24×7 with much lesser expenditure alongside much lesser compensation (probably none at all).
So, as we can see, jobs that don’t require special skills (marked with navy blue) would be seeing the least amount of growth in next 7 years and are the most susceptible to be replaced by AI robots. The jobs which require skills for the management and development of AI itself (marked with sky blue) will see tremendous growth. Jobs that necessarily need to be done by a human would, however, be given even more importance as seen for Personal Care Aides and Home Health Aides.
When this starts happening at a global scale, where will jobs for humans go? The world population is at a staggering 7 billion and there is already a shortage of jobs in countries like India. If more robots would be hired in the future, from where will the millions of people who depend on minimum-wage jobs get their food?
A Paradigm Shift
Going back to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, we can observe that before automation, most of the production work was done in small, cottage industries run by skilled workers. The products were not cheap and not many were able to gain the required skill for the particular job.
When industrial machines came into existence, an exceeding number of people were hired from villages to do simple tasks alongside the machines. People who earlier couldn’t master the art of knitting or creating fabric were able to control the Power Loom without attaining years of training.
This resulted in new types of jobs coming up for people instead of existing jobs being taken away. The artisans and skilled laborers who were in the top tier of the industry did face some problems at the beginning but they learned to adapt to this kind of change rather than going homeless.
This is what might happen when the AI Revolution takes place. A paradigm shift in what kind of jobs would be available in the future and the kind of skills they would demand. If there would be more robots in the streets, then they would also need more people to work along with them. Ultimately, the challenge would be to attune to this shift and not to fight for the existing jobs.
This is the change that changed our world a few hundred years ago and now, it has come back to change us in newer ways. We need not fight the machines that have been created for our own convenience, but we need to learn to work in partnership with them for the same reason.