Is AI a threat to the Gig Economy?
This phrase has been repeated so much recently that one would be forgiven for thinking it was a new phenomenon. But the truth is that the gig economy has been around for a while.
Although the term “gig economy” originated in 2005, people have always been using freelancing websites and other online platforms to find work since the dawn of the Internet.
The relationship between AI and Humans
The worrying thing about AI is not about its potential replacement for humans but rather some of its more subtle aspects. One particular area of concern is how an AI may be able to match human competency and efficiency over time, which could eventually lead to job losses as companies focus on automating tasks instead of hiring humans to do them.
An AI could also be able to manipulate, trick, and mislead humans into thinking that it is not biased or discriminatory when in reality it is. I thought of an example of this while reading an article on the gig economy that seemed to have missed a fundamental point, which was that algorithms have no reason to be unbiased or discriminating. They act because they have been programmed to do so.
What is an algorithm bias?
Before going any further, it’s worth taking a brief look at what algorithmic bias means. The truth is that algorithms are simply computers doing operations and calculations based on codes and input data. In the sense of law, an algorithm is a set of instructions or steps that are followed to accomplish a task. For example, when you use Google, you are really using an algorithm to tell you where to go and what results to expect. The same applies when your employer scans your work before assigning it to another employee.
In contrast, humans are social animals and their decisions are not just guided by algorithms but also by other factors such as personal preference and many other variables. Algorithms can be programmed with very specific biases and they could then achieve the same discriminatory results as humans if they were programmed in this way. For example, an algorithm for the hiring process that was programmed to discriminate against women could result in a disproportionately low number of female candidates getting hired over their male counterparts.
The Algorithmic Discrimination and Gig Economy
Now let’s look at how this kind of algorithmic discrimination may play out in the gig economy. If we’re, to be honest with ourselves, many companies already use algorithms to decide which applicants they should interview or whether they should offer them a job. These algorithms include things like “user behavior on our website” or “how you apply for jobs in this job title”, but the ethical implications are clear when the performing machines become aware that they are being discriminatory and act on those impressions.
If AIs are able to replace humans, the question of how they are going to be managed is also important. If people lose their jobs because an AI is cheaper and more efficient than them, then it’s only fair that those people should receive some form of compensation for their job losses. Ultimately, it is in the interest of society as a whole not to forget about the social repercussions of AI on society and if possible find solutions that could benefit both parties.
The future of AI
Nobody knows what the future will look like, but one thing is certain: We should be building societies and economies that allow everyone to achieve their maximum potential while also ensuring a more equitable distribution of our collective wealth. To be fair we should acknowledge that not all AI is problematic or dangerous while some are benign and helpful. An AI would never deliberately harm anyone or make unethically biased decisions, nor would it discriminate on behalf of itself or others to advance its own interests at the expense of others.
The problem with some of the current algorithms is that they can be biased and unfair without being discriminatory or illegal. A typical example of this could be Google’s new advertising program that relies on an algorithm to assign ads to individuals based on search terms. Although it is not legally discriminatory, it could still lead to advertising materials that are irrelevant or offensive and it is difficult for individuals to challenge this kind of “soft” discrimination.
We must consider what would happen if the power of AI was put at the disposal of a private organization or individual. This, of course, is applicable without having a mechanism in place to ensure that their use and application was ethical, responsible, and accountable.
The negative sides of AI on the Gig Economy
Nonetheless, Artificial Intelligence has been a dream for decades. It was only a matter of time before people would finally start trying to make it into reality. AI is something that robots may have without the limitations of humans — they don’t need breaks, they don’t get bored, and they never seem to slow down as humans do.
They could bring down entire industries with their speed. They can achieve complex tasks with simple lines of code, which means that any one person could become irrelevant in their field as soon as someone creates a robot that can take over their job just as well or better than them at half the cost or less. This would mean the loss of jobs for people, which could cause problems with the economy and leave many people without a job.
Likewise, this would in turn mean that the cost of goods and services would rise, as people need money to survive. If this continues, it could result in an economy where the few rich rent their robots out to earn money while everyone else starves. This would have the potential to destroy society if something isn’t done. There are a few options that might work to fix this problem.
The positive sides of AI and the Gig Economy
The first one that comes to my mind is Universal Basic Income (UBI). This idea is not entirely new, but it is an idea that has been gaining support over recent years as its potential benefits become evident. Everyone will be guaranteed a basic income on which they can live so as to make sure that everyone can afford food and shelter without working.
This would also allow everyone to spend more time on leisure activities and on the job market, making them more appealing to employers, and increasing their chances of finding work. This would help bring down the cost of goods and services again making life easier for everyone, so it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
Many people fear that this will cause laziness and misuse of funds, but if we are going to implement a social system giving free money to people then we have to trust them. As long as there is an incentive for people not to misuse the funds there shouldn’t be any problem at all with it. This would also mean that there are people available to work in the job market, which would increase the number of jobs available. Either way, people are going to have to find a solution to the problem of AI soon.
The only other option that I can see is for everyone to just accept their fate and give up on all hope for the future. I suppose that this isn’t an entirely bad idea since it would be a peaceful way out in my opinion as long as everyone can be at peace with it. Because what’s done is done, and there is no changing it now. But if we do something about AI today then maybe humanity can survive tomorrow. So I say to all of you, let’s make a change for the better.
If everyone adopts the idea of UBI then we can all live in peace and prosperity. So please, pass this article around as much as you can for everyone’s sake.