According to a recent study by the University of Oxford in the UK, the proliferation of machines is set to disrupt the job market. It suggests 47% of the current job market will become defunct due to rapid advancements in tech over the next 25 years.Such headline-grabbing statistics are widespread and problematic, says Nikolas Kairinos, CEO and founder of Fountech.ai, as they fuel negativity.
One must only consider how many non-experts are now discussing the future of artificial intelligence (AI) and technology — fears about an apocalypse and the “rise of machines” are too common.
But this kind of negativity needs to be seen in the context of human nature; we have a tendency to predict the worst and become fixated on perceived threats. As German philosopher Kant said, we “project to infinity”, when we really ought to look at the evidence.
AI will not replace human beings
There are two main reasons humans are not going to be replaced or overtaken by machines.
First, as tech proliferates, it creates new jobs that humans must fill. A recent investigation by the World Economic Forum agrees — it says that although millions of jobs will be lost as machines take laborious jobs away from humans, 58 million more will be added to manage them. And it predicts this change to take place over just five years, between 2020 and 2025.
This is because the machines that are created will require human management, upkeep and design. As Pedros Domingos, a professor at the University of Washington explains, jobs will be created to manage tech that we previously could not have fathomed. A historical analogy supports this principle; if you asked a person in the 1960s what a big data analyst was, they would have no idea.
Furthermore, humans have some innate qualities that machines may never be able to replace. For example, we are able to morally discern situations and empathise, whereas many examples exist of machines making offensive errors; such as Microsoft’s Tay bot, that ended up spouting offensive remarks on Twitter.
Whilst we are not going to be replaced, our new relationship with machines may be characterised by two qualities…
As we move into a new tech era, there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that machines and AI will amplify human abilities, not oppose or replace them. This is because many firms are designing programs that make human endeavour easier.
Prospex, for example, is an AI tool that provides leads to people who work in sales, meaning they can target potential customers effectively. A slow and monotonous process — trawling through databases and social media platforms to find new people to approach — has been automated, allowing salespeople to improve their final output (sell more!).
There are more abstract implications for this development. Some AI is able to generate design ‘ideas’ for designers. The human simply inputs certain parameters — if it were for a chair, say, that needs four legs and back rest — and some details about aesthetically attractive qualities, such as ‘red’ or ‘shiny’ and so on. The design AI is then able to quickly automate a huge number of iterations of different chair designs for the human to consider, amend, and choose from. It provides the designers with the foundations from which they can then create a new or novel design much more rapidly.
Taking over repetitive tasks
A huge proportion of the world’s population still performs repetitive tasks for their job. This is due to industrialisation, which has proliferated factories full of workers performing one simple task and little else.
For these people, the idea that a robot will replace their job is understandably concerning. However, if one looks at the evidence so far, the collaboration of man and machine will mean workers performing a more diverse, enjoyable range of tasks.
Chatbots serve as a good example. Many businesses use them at the front-end of the customer service process.
When implemented clumsily, chatbots can be frustrating — leading to hours on the phone spelling out the name of one’s first childhood pet. However, the technology is becoming increasingly refined, meaning it is able to quickly and accurately direct customers to the help they need.
This preserves representatives in call centres from repetitive functions and allows them to concentrate on actual issues. And it certainly benefits all parties, enabling cases to be dealt with more quickly, whilst workers are able to focus on more interesting tasks that require thoughtful solutions.
Looking ahead, the future of man and machine working in tandem seems unavoidable. An executive at IBM, John E. Kelly III, stresses that this will always be better than either working independently. Indeed, recent evidence does indicate this collaboration will make humanity’s working hours more fulfilling and efficient.
Will AI be the cause of an apocalypse? Almost certainly not. Will it revolutionise the way human beings work? Undoubtedly.
About the author
Nikolas Kairinos is CEO and founder of Fountech.ai, a company specialising in the development and delivery of artificial intelligence solutions for businesses and organisations.
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