Losing our jobs to AI could be a good thing

According to a new survey done by Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., 80% of us are excited at the prospect of using artificially intelligence in the workplace. AI, along with robotics, can accomplish repetitive work with more efficiency than any human can.

Yet, we constantly read from the public and private sector alike how AI could cause massive unemployment. PricewaterhouseCoopers has published a study in 2017 saying 38% of jobs today could be automated by 2030. Another study from Oxford in 2013 has revealed that about 47 percent of total employment is at risk due to artificial intelligence and robotics.

To the point, speech and image recognition have been licked and they are getting better still. Some companies, like IBM and Google, have been experimenting with AI in creative areas like producing music, analysing artwork and so much more. Companies like LawGeex are vowing to automate all legal work. Most car manufacturers and a few outliers like Nvidia are getting ready to sell driverless vehicles in less than 2 years from now. The first fully automated surgery was performed in 2017. Amazon has opened its first zero-staff store near San Francisco and the first zero-staff farm has started operation in and the last in this list, Google, has even using AI to create other AI with more proficiency than any human. The list of AI achievements goes on.

There is reason to be concerned. After all, over 70% of all jobs today are in farming, transportation, construction, manufacturing and the service industry.

Peter Diamandis, one of the world’s leading futurists and co-founder of Singularity University and Human Longevity Inc says, “high-level autonomy is already underway…”. Indeed, progress is being made very quickly because AI, along with massive computer power and a very connected professional population, will see us through an employment revolution that slow-moving entities like government will have no chance to see coming. Diamandis comments on this as well: “This is something we need to think about and solve — not in 20 years or 10 years, but in the next five years.”

On the other hand, Ray Kurzweil, an equally famous futurist and Google’s chief engineer, has a different perspective on the future of jobs. “Well, don’t worry, for every job we eliminate, we’re going to create more jobs at the top of the skill ladder.”

Suffice it to say, there is disagreement on whether AI will be a job-killer or simply a job-displacer.

I believe it is best to avoid uncertainty altogether. Let’s be proactive instead of reactive. We know some jobs will be created with the implementation and deployment of AI. Kurzweil, when asked what those would be, said, “Well, I don’t know. We haven’t invented them yet.” So what does being proactive mean then? We should be putting our efforts is in facilitating and accelerating the development and implementation of AI. Since technology can replace so many jobs, we can transition our whole economy from employment-centric to one where people don’t need to work for a living within the next 10 years.

Now I need to put a damper on this dream. Like Kurzweil suggests, many people in high tech would likely be required to still work for society to continue to function and progress normally. Other non-IT jobs will likely take time before they can be fully automated and consumer adoption will certainly put some roadblocks to some innovation. However, if we’re going to be in a world where AI can replace most repetitive, dirty and dangerous jobs, I don’t think anyone would object if their basic needs and well-being are covered.

The private sectors will continue to innovate and deploy their intelligent solutions whether the public sector thinks we will see real socio-economical problems in the job market or not. If our governments can agree to ensure the basic needs of 100% of our citizens are met no matter what happens, we’ll be in a much better position to tackle whatever disruption technological progress throws in our direction.