Will AI replace Humans?

This time, the robots really are coming.

Image: The hand of humanoid robot AILA (artificial intelligence lightweight android) operates a switchboard during a demonstration by the German research centre for artificial intelligence. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is empowering more machine intelligence embedded in human systems than ever before. We might even call this intrusion of the algorithm an epidemic on human organization.

We suspect that its impact will be progressive, ubiquitous and profound on all human endeavors, all human activity and a multitude of professional tasks.

Advances in deep learning and areas of AI will coincide with the rise and proliferation of smarter robots. Even rather primitive digital transformation is already modifying human behavior in a marked way.

A set of AI machines by the company Alibaba recently became the first to beat a human score at a reading comprehension test. We didn’t expect to see AI beat human experts at Go or Jeopardy in the same decade. Surgery was early to the robotics party: Over a third of U.S. hospitals have at least one surgical robot.

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A BIG ROBOT CRUNCH IS COMING

It’s hard to imagine an industry that won’t be impacted (even distupted) by AI in the 2020s: Transportation, real-estate, financial services, retail, fast-food, restaurants, customer service, insurance, construction, banking, the list goes on and on.

It’s not just the domain of repetitive tasks that is impacted, it’s any number of white collar jobs as well including lawyers, doctors, writers, journalists and so forth.

While we train robots like Waymo’s self-driving cars with data and real-world simulations, a time will come when AI will be training us in education and how to improve our global economy, and not just addicting us to a data capture attention economy by the Ad-centric platforms.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, some jobs will be wiped out, others will be in high demand, but all in all, around 5 million jobs will be lost. The real question is then, how many jobs will be made redundant in the 2020s? Many futurists including Google’s Chief Futurist believe this will necessitate a universal human stipend that could become globally ubiquitous as early as the 2030s.

Humans Will be Replaced and Must Stay Agile

As humans we’re already taught that we’ll change our career several times in our lifetime. We acquire skills to get retooled for society only to find that by the time we get new training, the demand has dried up or the skill-gaps that will occur in society are in hard to meet areas such as high-tech, software engineering, robotics and specialized disciplines of AI.

AI will optimize many of our systems, but also create new jobs. We don’t know the rate at which it will do this. Research firm Gartner further confirms the hypothesis of AI creating more jobs than it replaces, by predicting that in 2020, AI will create 2.3 million new jobs while eliminating 1.8 million traditional jobs.

The basic fact is that technology eliminates jobs, not work. It is the continuous obligation of economic policy to match increases in productive potential with increases in purchasing power and demand. Otherwise the potential created by technical progress runs to waste in idle capacity, unemployment, and deprivation.

— National Commission on Technology, Automation and Economic Progress, Technology and the American Economy, Volume 1, February 1966, pg. 9.

REGULATION AND THE ROBOT VS. HUMAN DILEMMA

In an era where it’s being shown we can’t even regulate algorithms, how will we be able to regulate AI and robots that will progressively have a better capacity to self-learn, self-engineer, self-code and self-replicate? This first wave of robots are simply robots capable of performing repetitive tasks, but as human beings become less intelligent trapped in digital immersion, the rate at which robots learn how to learn will exponentially increase.

How do humans stay relevant when Big Data enables AI to comb through contextual data as would a supercomputer? Data will no longer be the purvey of human beings, neither medical diagnosis and many other things. To say that AI “augments” human in this respect, is extremely naive and hopelessly optimistic. In many respects, AI completely replaces the need for human beings. This is what I term the automation economy.

Softbank’s Vision Fund and other mega funds are changing how AI based startups will be accelerated. We have to think differently about how the future accelerates in an age of Artificial Intelligence. To say many human beings will be “left behind” is truly an understatement.

THE ETHICS OF AI

Robots have transformed industrial manufacturing, and now they are being rolled out for food production and restaurant kitchens. We know the future of work will be altered, but it’s difficult for us to predict what we are up against, because what AI becomes is mysterious and how it scales is likely beyond our control. That is an oxymoron and somewhat of a paradox, but given how men are developing autonomous killing machines, the context of where AI is heading is skewed to military technology, national supremacy and attention capture addiction instead of more worthwhile causes.

If China, Russia and the U.S. are in a race for AI supremacy, the kind of manifestations of AI will be so significant, they could alter the entire future of human civilization.
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THE EXPONENTIAL THREAT

From drones, to nanobots to 3D-printing, automation could lead to unparalleled changes to how we live and work. In spite of the increase in global GDP, most people’s quality of living is not likely to see the benefit as it will increasingly be funneled into the pockets of the 1%. Capitalism then, favors the development of an AI that’s fundamentally exploitative to the common global citizen.

Just as we exchanged our personal data for convenience and the illusion of social connection online, we will barter convenience for a world a global police state where social credit systems and AI decide how much of a “human stipend” (basic income) we receive. Our poverty or the social privilege we are born into, may have a more obscure relationship to a global system where AI monitors every aspect of our lives.

Eventually AI will itself be the CEOs, inventors, master engineers and creator of more efficient robots. That’s when we will know that AI has indeed replaced human beings. What will Google’s DeepMind be able to do with the full use of next-gen quantum computing and supercomputers?

AI is a new paradigm of humanity, not a tool of humans.

JOBS UNDER THREAT

We can briefly summarize once again the following professions are most likely to be replaced by AI in the near future:

  • Data entry clerks
  • Fast food workers
  • Cashiers
  • Customer service (support)
  • Telemarketers
  • Library technicians
  • New accounts clerks
  • Cargo and Freight agents
  • Retail associates
  • Receptionists
  • Drivers (including Truck Drivers)
  • Logistics and delivery staff
  • Sales and marketing research
  • Tax preparers
  • Bank tellers
  • E-commerce warehouse workers
  • Insurance underwriters
  • Bookeepers and accountants
  • Freelance writers; journalists
  • Legal secretaries
  • HR administrators
  • Shipping, receiving and traffic clerks
  • Insurance appraisers
  • Lab technicians
  • Restaurant, coffee and lounge hosts (servers)
  • Cooks
  • Auditors
  • Assemblers (various)
  • Hospitality desk clerks (hotel, motel, resort, etc..)

And literally 100s more.

Artificial Intelligence Will Replace Humans

To argue that AI and robots and 3D-printing and any other significant technology won’t impact and replace many human jobs, is incredibly irresponsible.

That’s not to say humans won’t adapt, and even thrive in more creative, social and meaningful work!

That AI replacing repetitive tasks is a good thing, can hardly be denied. But will it benefit all globally citizens equally? Will ethics, common sense and collective pragmatism and social inclusion prevail over profiteers?

Will younger value systems such as decentralization and sustainable living thrive with the advances of artificial intelligence?

Will human beings be able to find sufficient meaning in a life where many of them won’t have a designated occupation to fill their time?

These are the question that futurists like me ponder, and you should too.

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