If you read it, you were certainly wowed by the article in Wired called “Chill: Robot’s Won’t Take Your Job. This article isn’t just a patronizing, pacifying fluff piece, despite the easy-going title. It uses historical examples to soothe our fears that professionals such as auditors, lawyers, and bankers will become obsolete.
It’s Not Our First (Mechanical) Rodeo
Automation is not as unprecedented as it’s touted to be—for example, consider ATMs. It’s time to back away from the initial fear inspired by uncanny humanoid robots and rationally look at where automation is taking us. We trust human professionals because of their vast knowledge, expertise, experience, and character. If anything, technology like the internet has democratized their specialized knowledge and made it available to a much bigger audience. Going back to the ATM example, automation will affect the workforce in a more complex way than simple employee replacement: ATMs actually created banking jobs—automation of basic banking tasks meant huge cuts to operating costs for banks and allowed more branches to open.
Nothing New is As Simple As it Seems
It’s one thing to invent AI and another to implement it into the most complicated organism in the world—the capitalist market. With this in mind, it’s safe to say we don’t have to fear automation will execute a coup on human jobs overnight. Rather, the thing to worry about will be good, old-fashioned, human vs. human competition.
AI simply means new equipment. It’s simple: adding new technology into the industry will jack up the stakes. It will bring about a new wave of selective characteristics in the evolution of major-player companies; gaps between early-adopters and those that are slow to change with the times will widen. Increases in computational power will be able to crunch crazy amounts of data— “big data” will become the name of the game.
While human professionals won’t be spirited away tomorrow, think how fast every bank released a mobile banking app after the first one was introduced. In this way, the robots of today’s AI are not like their clunky predecessors— changes can be implemented quickly. Automation will disrupt the faster, spawning “jobs of tomorrow” with increasing speed. Robots will not throw our jobs away, but rather throw our current definitions of work into the spotlight. The traditional role of a professional as a “knowledge gatekeeper” is over. White collar workers are becoming blank collar workers— ready to adapt to a fluid future of work.
Computers and people will continue their journey in tandem. You’ll still need your creativity, humanity, and empathy. So, catch your breath after watching the latest AI viral video, and consider for a moment how the jobs of tomorrow may be built around who we are instead of what we can do. Dehumanization of parts of the workforce might just make our professions more human.