10 May

Why AI Won’t Take Your Jobs

You’ve probably heard that the AI doomsday is coming. Soon the planet will be run by robots and human work will become second best. But the central fact the doomsayers fail to mention is that while AI is replacing jobs (typically low-skilled, time-inefficient work) they are creating jobs too. And so far, they have created a lot more than they have replaced, at around a half a million net gain as of 2020.  

So, before we throw in the towel to the supercomputers, why don’t we get real and talk about the future? 

It hasn’t happened before, so why should it happen now? 

This is not the first tech revolution and it won’t be the last. At most points in history, workers have been resistant to technological developments for fear they would be put out of work. At the start of the 19th century, cloth weavers in America were furious at the widespread adoption of the power loom – a machine that produced the worker’s output in a fraction of the time. Workers were initially replaced. But as the change was adapted to, the loom led to booms in profit for the firms, which created a new market where skilled weavers were in demand. Not only did the workers now have a higher skilled job but they also saw a long-term rise in wages. 

The sands are a-shifting  

Much like the loom was feared, we fear AI because of the uncertainty around it. Workers in the 19th century could not predict how the introduction of new technology may affect their lives and the truth is, neither can we. But if we look over the last two centuries, we can see average employment and wages have risen ten-fold as technological progress has been made, according to Harvard Business Review. The simple conclusion drawn from this is that while technology may replace some jobs, it also creates others – ones with even higher pay. 

AI are just plain different to humans 

The average thing you do in a day, for example writing an email, requires a multitude of tasks from intentionality and coordination to conveying emotion. AI can only focus on a narrow task at a time, much less begin to develop understandings of complex human functions such as IQ and empathy. There are fundamental qualitative differences between humans and the version of AI used across industries today, known as weak AI. Creativity, innovation, teamwork, leadership and emotional intelligence – these are all examples of things AI just can’t do…yet. 

Strong AI is far off…really far 

It’s true that in theory, AI could do what a human can do – it could be creative, it could be a good leader, but the reality is that prospect is distant. Even then, Strong AI would likely be made on a model of human intelligence. And despite all the breakthroughs in neuroscience, we still know very little about how complex cognition such as consciousness works. It’s true AI in theory could replace all of humanity at work, but weak AI simply won’t do. As of yet, there are currently trends towards increasing AI integration in business from cybersecurity to entertainment and content creation. But currently, many of these sit on the innovation trigger of the Hype Cycle, with public perception governed by the negative associations of generative AI and deep-fakes. So is mass adoption far off? History has indeed shown that technology and humans have had a consistently complimentary relationship. 

The threat of strong AI may exist – but besides an Ex-Machina inspired sci-fi fantasy, most companies should embrace the prospect.       

AI
AI Trends
Hype Cycle
Strong AI
Weak AI