AI and Human Employment

AI and Human Employment

We are hopeful that while AI will take over some jobs, but humans will adapt to switching to doing other things that cannot be automated as we have done so in the past (e.g. industrial revolution in the 18th century, the computer revolution in the late 20th century). This is unlikely to be true for the following reasons.

In the past, automation meant a step up in terms of machine capability, but the difference in capabilities between machines and humans was still very wide. Humans could keep ahead of machines by doing the things that machines could not, especially around operating machines and knowledge work. However AI is catching up to human intelligence in vertical areas. It is now possible to automate jobs in accounting, legal and other similar areas of knowledge work, putting all these workers are at risk. These transitions are accelerating, we humans do not have time to adapt to the changes. Within a single generation, we have started to automate knowledge work, and this is just the beginning.

With the combination of Robotics and AI, tasks that require specialized labour are susceptible to automation. This has already started to happen both inside homes (e.g. washers/dryers/dish washers, Roomba) and factories (automated manufacturing or cars, using robots in warehouses). Even medical professionals are not immune. It is not an stretch to imagine robot surgeries in the future. In fact robots are routinely used to assist in surgeries today (e.g. during minimally invasive procedures).

Ultimately economics will drive this trend exploiting cost advantages. When a robot is cheaper than a human, a robot will be deployed. A Robot does not need downtime and does not have be paid. How can humans compete?