Way back in 1962, the first industrial robot – Unimate (conceived and designed by George Devol and Joseph Engelberger), debuted on the General Motors assembly line, welding auto parts together, and ever since then, automation has gently snuck into our lives. From then, it seemed obvious to everyone that robots, automation, and software could potentially replace people not only in manufacturing, but also professions such as education, law, and even medicine.
So what impact will artificial intelligence have on human jobs? Could modern smart machines lead to mass unemployment? And what will our life be like in an AI future? In June, The Economist ran a special report on artificial intelligence and noted that after more than two centuries, the question of machinery is back and “it needs to be answered.”
AI is Nothing New
For starters, you need to realize that people have long worried about the impact of modern technology on society. For example, the 'machinery question' mentioned in The Economist article was first raised in 1817 by the eminent economist, David Ricardo. Understandably, automation fears have grown in recent years, as our increasingly smarter machines are now being applied to activities that require cognitive thinking. The questions surrounding AI’s impact may well be in a class by themselves, because like no other tech, it forces us to explore the very boundaries between humans and machines.
At the moment, however, instead of serving as a replacement for our ingenuity and knowledge, in general, AI is seen by experts as our support tool. You see, artificial intelligence currently has a difficult time completing rational tasks outside of the lab (Live Science has an in-depth article on the matter), but it’s adept at analyzing volumes of data far faster than a human brain ever could. And while it is certain that AI will eradicate certain jobs, the fact is, experts tend to agree that it will open up new career opportunities for people who have higher-level skills.
Can AI Help Us Today?
While most people are still thinking about the possible dangers of artificial intelligence, enterprises aren’t afraid of it. In fact, according to the State of Artificial Intelligence & Big Data in the Enterprise Report, around 80% of enterprise executives claim that it makes employees more productive, and believe that it will only create more jobs in the future. And that is why more and more companies are now turning to AI to help them analyze data and utilize it to make better business decisions.
Artificial intelligence allows workers to spend time on more thoughtful and creative aspects of their jobs. For instance, a salesperson can use a CRM like SalesforceIQ to enter information on their behalf, so they have more time to work with customers. What’s more, with recent advances in speech recognition, it’s just a matter of time before new apps will allow workers to bypass human actors completely. For example, many 3PL logistics have already started using intelligent speech recognition systems and apps to improve agility.
Singularity is Much More than AI
Unavoidably, all of this brings us to the concept of 'Singularity'. First, we have to mention that the idea of singularity is much broader that the prediction of strong artificial intelligence, and that it can refer to a number of different sub-meanings. Did you even know that there are three major singularity schools of thought? Nevertheless, you also have to realize that just like with most ideas, there is a lot of exaggeration associated with this concept.
The idea that in a relatively short time, machine intelligence will become superior to human intelligence was popularized by the well-known futurist, Ray Kurzweil in his 2005 book, 'The Singularity is near.' Kurzweil argued that by 2045, technology will top biology and that we will not only be able to understand the function of our minds, but we will also be able to recreate it. It may be true that new technologies are slowly replacing certain cognitive tasks, just like machines replaced physical labor during the Industrial Revolution.
However, humans will learn to become more proficient at things that technology can’t actually do – specifically, dealing with people. And once everything’s said and done – social will always trump cognitive in the market. As the best-selling author and innovation expert, Greg Satell puts it, 'the future of technology is all too human.'