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AUTOMATION AND ANXIETY The Threat of Mass Unemployment

Robotics and machine learning have improved productivity and enhanced the economies of many nations. Artificial intelligence (AI) has advanced into finance, transportation, defense, and energy management. Artificial Intelligence is dramatically improving the world in many ways. Amidst all the convenient services AI provides, it creates a huge fear concerning mass unemployment. A number of books and news articles have been released in recent years with visions of impending disaster caused by automation.

Elon Musk, the iconic Silicon Valley futurist who is the founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX recently commented that robots will take away the jobs of people. He also suggested that all countries may have to adapt universal basic income programs for their citizens to cope with the aftermath of this revolution. Since AI-powered systems are capable of learning, implementing and decision making, it questions the need for a human role in developing business. The jobs that exist today will also be taken by AI systems in the near future. With rapid technological innovations and advancements, robotics has been a threat to human dignity.

Why companies choose AI over a human?

From fashion and health to construction, automation has been beneficent. Digitization and automation in providing medical diagnostics, due to which report entry errors are completely eliminated.

Complex reasoning and self-learning in an automated fashion at massive scale, AI  is a game-changer in how we improve our cyber-resilience.  Artificial intelligence in the world of manufacturing has limitless potential. Initiatives from tech giants like Microsoft (AI for Accessibility) and smaller leading companies like A Bot will revolutionize AI for all information workers. According to a panel of Forbes Technology Council members, here are 13 industries that will soon be revolutionized by AI.

From the perspective of a company, a computer does not look forward to a handsome paycheck at the end of every month; however, having a computer to work for you is not free either. A computer is also hired as an employee. A properly trained A.I. system can understand customer requests in natural language, identify the mentioned or implied entities it can estimate customer’s interest early enough ,  can instantly process large volumes of data and apply the corporate policy in order to identify the best decision. Hiring a computer is also costly. Apart from the initial cost of implementing and developing AI systems and robots, the cost would be further reduced. Compared to the repetitive tasks that a human will complete in the given work time, AI systems saves time. To hire a computer as your employee, you have to bear development costs and also compare that cost with the total amount you would eventually be saving. In addition to just the development and procurement costs, like any other machine, your AI would also need routine and unplanned maintenance. 

Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Jobs

Oxford University researchers Carl Frey and Michael Osborne claim that technology will transform many sectors of life. Their study found that 47 percent of U.S. workers have a high probability of seeing their jobs automated over the next 20 years. Their study warned the employees working in transport and logistics including taxi drivers and courier drivers , to be replaced by self-driving cars and car-pools, office support staff like security guards and front-desk officers to be replaced by computerized check-ins and securities and sales and customer support staff ,cashiers, telemarketers, call-center assistants, clerks to be replaced with chatbots and machines. Businesses always looks to practise new strategies that reduce cost and increase output, this is why our material standard of living has been on the rise – and with increasing rapidity since the industrial revolution.

A report published by UN DESA’s Development Policy and Analysis Division (DPAD)  offers several reasons why our planet is not on track to becoming a robot’s world yet. DESA’s researchers in collaboration with UNDP, ILO and UN Women discussed the impact of the technological revolution on labor markets and income distribution. “History shows that new technologies can lead to great gains for our economies but are not without pain for some people and communities.  The overall impact will depend highly on social institutions and policies.” said Pingfan Hong, Director of DPAD. 

However, there cannot be massive predictable unemployment due to the implementation of AI systems and robots. Instead, jobs enhancing automation and artificial intelligence would increase in higher rates. AI will also create new jobs in the field. Self-driving cars may need drivers for emergency rides. More tech developers to create chatbots for every industry and more AI-trainers to train chatbots to act like a human are required in every sector. Like websites, all the systems need to be maintained and constantly updated. Every sector requires human hands in one or another form. AI and robotics will rarely substitute an entire occupation. Researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)  commented about fewer job losses due to AI.

 

Embracing the Power of AI

New technologies not only destroy but also create jobs. Technological innovations have always enhanced the productivity of workers and created new products and markets, thereby generating new jobs in the economy. A recent study found that by 2016, only one out of 270 occupations listed in the 1950 US census had been eliminated by automation. AI and Robotics create changes in companies.  Those companies that will embrace it, will disrupt the industry and speed up the existing trend of computer-related automation which will enable their employees to learn new skills more quickly than in the past.

It is high time to rethink and redesign labor market policies, social security schemes and taxation systems that are transforming. It is important to adapt to new methods and technologies, embracing them. The benefits of innovation must be shared broadly, without harming the equality of wealth in society. Governments, as well as the United Nations, should create a regulatory and legal framework that facilitates the adoption and diffusion of new technologies. Policies must ensure to help workers adapt to the new reality and to confirm their participation in the benefits arising from technology.

About The Author
Vinod Saratchandran
Vinod Saratchandran

Vinod has conceptualized and delivered niche mobility products that cater to various domains including logistics, media & non-profits. He leads, mentors & coaches a team of Project Coordinators & Analysts at Fingent.

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