As the CEO of your company, you would always want the best people to work for you. Simultaneously, the fewer wages you have to pay, the more convenient it is for you. What if you can get most of the work done at less than a fraction of the cost of a human worker? This 'volunteer' is not human but a machine.
This machine can read your commands and carry them out diligently. It is tempting to think that you can soon replace your employees with an army of robots that do not take breaks, go on strike or ask for a raise.
Your machine or robot is called an Artificial Intelligence or AI. It is a commonly-used term in the current century.
It refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like human brains and mimic human actions. AI is currently being used in different industries including aviation, finance and healthcare.
If AI can work like human beings then it can theoretically take over most jobs that can be automated. That is a huge threat to the job market in the future. Will AI surpass and replace its human creators? That is the topic of a big debate.
According to a study by Oxford Economics, the number of robots in use worldwide increased three-fold over the past two decades, to 2.25 million. On average, each newly installed robot displaces 1.6 manufacturing workers with the least-skilled regions being more affected.
By 2030, it is estimated that as many as 20 million additional manufacturing jobs worldwide could be displaced by robotisation. This phenomenon is inevitable and happening right now. A recent study found that 6,70,000 US jobs were lost to robots between 1990 and 2007, CNBC reported.
A Big Think report said that many top minds think that automation will cost humans their employment, with up to 47% of all jobs gone in the next 25 years. Moreover, chances are, this number could be even higher resulting in massive job cuts in the near future. For example, it took Google's DeepMind only two out of the expected 12 years to come up with the necessary tech.
Moreover, the Big Think report also said that in the next 10 years, AI is predicted to do better than humans in translating languages (by 2024), writing high-school-level essays (by 2026), writing the top 40 songs (by 2028) and driving trucks.
And while the consensus may be that self-driving trucks will become widespread as early as 2027, it is easy to predict that this could happen even sooner, with top tech entrepreneurs like Elon Musk constantly pushing the envelope and promising these innovations earlier.
A chore that is easily automated- like folding laundry should be a breeze for AI by 2022. Other tasks might take longer but are still possible to be automated within the foreseeable future.
You will likely be around for these developments. We can expect AI-driven machines in retail by 2031. Moreover, by 2049, AI should be writing New York Times bestsellers and by 2053, performing surgeries.
Overall, AI is expected to beat humans at pretty much everything in about 45 years.
However, there is another side to such grim forecasts. AI integration may give as much as it takes.
Oxford Economics estimated that if there was a 30% rise in robot installations worldwide, it would create $5 trillion in additional global GDP. The study also found that the more repetitive the job is, the easier it is for robots to do.
Jobs which require more compassion, creativity or social intelligence, meaning those that are soft-skills-based, are more likely to continue to be carried out by humans.
Experts also predict that the use of artificial intelligence will create more jobs as well. Because the ultimate difference is that robots are controlled and supervised by humans anyway while humans are not.
And this fact is universal. A robot can replace a labourer's work but then the company will need to hire programmers and technicians to create and maintain them.
A recently published paper by the MIT Task Force on the work of the future titled 'Artificial Intelligence and The Future of Work' paints an optimistic view. The paper argues that rather than promoting the obsolescence of human labour, AI will continue to drive massive innovation that will fuel many existing industries and potentially create many new sectors for growth, ultimately leading to the creation of more jobs.
Therefore, only time will tell if man's innovation will take over most of its own jobs or not. But, surely, humans will always find a way to be resourceful. Till then the debates will continue.