Is Your Job at Risk? The Future of Artificial Intelligence
There are wildly divergent views on the future of artificial intelligence, from dystopian visions of displaced workers and widespread poverty to wildly optimistic outlooks where robots produce products at virtually no cost and humans are finally free to pursue their dreams and live out their ambitions.
As with so many things, the real prospect for artificial intelligence and the future of the robotic revolution probably lies somewhere in the future. The neo-luddites who predict robots will one day replace virtually all human jobs will probably be proven wrong, as will the utopians that see only great things ahead.
The future of artificial intelligence may still be cloudy, but some things are already becoming clear. It was not that long ago that artificial intelligence was the stuff of science fiction writers, with novelists of the 1950s and 1960s predicting all manner of wild futures. By the end of the 20th century, however, AI had moved from the world of science fiction into the real world, and the advances of the early 21st century have been even more impressive. So just what does the AI and robotics revolution mean for the future of work, and how can parents, students and employees get ready?
Here are a few of the ways in which AI will undoubtedly change the world of work, both in the near future and over the long term.
The world of the warehouse is already being transformed by the power of robotics and advances in artificial intelligence. In one recent example, those robots were able to replace some 75% of human workers, leading to a new revolution in how products are packaged and orders are filled.
This may be the most extreme example, but that 75% replacement number is far from an isolated incident. Companies as diverse as Amazon and Walmart have taken great pains to automate their warehouses, and at the same corporations are using artificial intelligence to optimise their supply chains and reduce the amount of time it takes to get products into the hands of their customers. This should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who works in a warehouse, and even supervisory jobs could be at risk in the future.
Fast Food Jobs
If you have been in a fast food restaurant or convenience store lately, you may have noticed a big change. The process of ordering fast food has switched gears, with many chains now installing kiosks where hungry diners can choose their favourites and pay for their purchases.
And while there are still plenty of human workers in the backs of those restaurants, these kiosks have already replaced many front-line customer service jobs. In the future, even human roles like burger flipping could fall to the robots – a burger flipping robot is already being tested in the real world, and many of the early reviews have been quite positive.
As the drive for a higher minimum wage continues to gather steam, the higher labour costs could spur more and more fast food chains to automate their ordering and food production capabilities. While it is expensive to install those kiosks and burger flipping robots, once in place, those automated workers do not get sick, they do not demand longer breaks and they will never be found outside sneaking a cigarette.
What this all means for fast food workers is still up in the air, but the trend is clearly toward automation. Fully automated burger chains will have a number of key advantages, from lower costs to easier staffing. In the future, those starter jobs at McDonalds, Burger King and other fast food joints could become a thing of the past, and the impact on the American workforce would be enormous.
Until now, many in the white collar community felt their jobs were secure and that they faced no threat from artificial intelligence and robotics. That may be changing, however, thanks to advances in the intelligence of machines and smarter algorithms that can do just as well, and many times much better, than their human counterparts.
The rise of artificial intelligence and its push into analytical and other white collar realms may be the biggest story of all and the most worrisome for the future of work in the United States and around the world.
Already some white collar jobs are being automated, from learning algorithms replacing tutors to artificially intelligent processes that can root out fraud and prepare tax returns as well as any human CPA.
So what does this all mean, and how should those already in the workforce react to these threats? It is important to remember that nothing can put the genie back in the bottle – artificial intelligence is here, and its capabilities are growing with every passing year. In this uncertain world, updating skills and looking for ways to add value to their employers will be more important than ever before. There is no time to waste – the robots are coming, and they could have their sights set on your job.