Technological unemployment has been quite the buzzword among people in the technology field and the general public. Many are afraid that it’s the first step towards robots taking over the world.
What is Technological Unemployment?
It’s when developments and advancements in technology cause workers to lose their jobs. For example, a labor-saving machine could be introduced in the production process. This means the company can get rid of all of its workers and still be able to make the same amount of goods as before.
How Bad Could It Get?
A study done in 2013 claimed that up to 47% of workers in America had jobs that are at high risk of automation. We have already seen some automation with customer service. Many stores use an AI chatbot for any questions online or on the phone until a real person is needed.
Some people may be wondering how bad it will get. Using the field of trucking as an example, it could lead to mass unemployment. Trucking is a massive industry in America. It employees over 1 million people and generates 7 billion dollars in revenue.
While many people think that robots taking jobs is far away, trucking proves otherwise. With self-driving technology already available and being tested by major companies.
A company called Otto has already completed their initial trials of an automated truck. It drove over 120 miles with 1,000 cases of Budweiser without any driver guidance.
Many truckers are worried about their job, and rightfully so, and have formed unions to demand a ban of automated vehicles.
It’s also worth pointing out that machines can work 24/7, provide consistent results, not require oversight, don’t provide a potential liability by getting hurt, they don’t get sick, and they don’t form unions. These are all things that human workers either have or are not capable of doing.
What Kind of Jobs Will Be Taken Over by Automation?
The type of jobs that are most threatened are ones that have a routine to them. It doesn’t matter if you are a white or blue collar worker, if your job has routine, it’s at risk. As already stated, any sort of driving job is at risk. Truckers, taxi drivers, and funeral drivers could all easily be replaced by robots.
Some manual work already had help or been replaced by robotics. Office support like receptionists and security guards can also be replaced by AI. They can handle appointment scheduling, payroll, and other office tasks.
We already entrust our security to robots, it’s not a far jump to have them completely handle it.
Retail workers, telemarketers, accountants all can be replaced by AI. Because AI can mimic social interaction, they can easily help customers and cash them out in stores. The machines can call people for telemarketing and are big calculators, so that’s not a problem.
Jobs that don’t have routines and require empathy are likely to be safe. Jobs like doctors, therapists, hairdressers, personal trainers, and artists are just a few that comes to mind. Even though AI can mimic human interactions, it is still far from having empathy. It’s hard to communicate the depth of that emotion.
A Proposed Alternative
It seems to be pretty bleak, but people in the technology field are trying to get ahead of this issue. They want to propose an alternative to having jobs at all.
Many billionaires in Silicon Valley, including Bill Gates, want to get governments to socialize the costs they created for society. This is called Universal Basic Income or cash for life.
Gates said in an interview with Quartz, “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory has that income taxed. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
It’s not a new idea and there are a few projects that have started around the world with the goal of having universal income. But it’s been pretty much dead on arrival politically.
The general public is untrusting of the whole idea and the people who propose it. It’s easy to propose such an idea when you have millions, or even billions, of dollars at your disposal. Many wonder if they would be willing to give away their income so that everyone can be more equal.
It’s Quite the Problem
The problem of technological unemployment is a real Gordian knot, a really difficult or involved problem. There is definitely some pessimism about the future of AI, but there are a lot of real concerns at the same time.
What do you think? Do you think that robots are coming for our jobs? Do you think people are exaggerating? Or, are you not sure what to think?