Automatization Is Not the Enemy: Why You Don’t Need to Fear Losing Your Job to a Robot
The topic of “AI Uprising and Rebellion” is a recurring issue that was recently reignited by the hype surrounding UiPath raising around $100M for its ‘software robots’ to perform internal business tasks. Unrest began in July of 2014 with a statement released by David Willetts, Minister of Science and Higher Education of Great Britain where he expressed the opinion that computers will be able to out-compete humans for complex work rather than just simple tasks like preparing coffee and moving boxes. According to Willetts, accountants, teachers and many other professions that require a higher level of cognitive skill should have been occupied by robots a long time ago.
In July of 2017, three years after the dystopian prognosis of the minister, one of the founders of Boston Dynamics, Mark Raybert, delivered a lecture at a TED Talk conference discussing how robots built by his company will change the world. Raybert even brought a couple of robots to showcase the advances Boston Dynamics had made in the field of robotics. The most memorable moment of the lecture was when the most advanced and promising robot, named Atlas, helped demonstrate Mr. Raybert’s prediction by falling off the stage.
Risk Zone: Robots Are Already Replacing People
This calculator predicts how likely your profession will be mastered by a machine or robot. It is based on research conducted by the University of Oxford. It displays a list of 702 studied professions that will most likely be computerized in the near future. Based on these calculations, positions for accountants and telemarketers are likely to be replaced first, while atomic engineers and painters, for example, will still remain in demand. The following is a snippet from the 702 professions most likely to be replaced by robots:
- The likelihood that accountants will be replaced is 99%.
- Judges and referees – 98.3%.
- Models – 97.6%
- Legal assistants – 94.5%
- waiters/waitresses – 93.7%.
U.S. Army General Robert Cohn said that by 2030 or 2040, high-tech cars would fight alongside soldiers on the battlefield. According to him, developments such as these will be the new modern standard of health and safety designed to keep soldiers out of harm’s way. Even the U.S. Army has a long-term project designed to create autonomous robots. These machines will be capable of making decisions in real time on the front lines, during chaotic circumstances that are constantly changing.
Office Workers Are Safe!
“On one hand, we fear, that the consequences of this automation will fall on the shoulders of less skilled workers, but on the other hand, we hope these workers will have the resources to learn a new profession,” said Michael Osborne, one of the scientists involved in the Oxford study. Andrew Anderson of the British company Celaton, which studies artificial intelligence, says jobs that require creativity and negotiating skills are much less likely to be performed by robots in the near future. The point Mr. Anderson makes is that machines with artificial intelligence may be able to quickly and efficiently perform laborious tasks such as record keeping or manufacturing but that, “machines can not perform cognitive tasks.”
The idea of the inevitable robot uprising is not based on any concrete evidence. Actually, when it comes to the idea of waves of robots taking all the available jobs, there is ample evidence to the contrary. A major reason for this is that humans are able to perform very complex tasks in constantly changing situations on a level higher than most robots. This is not difficult to observe. For example, a pilot having to land an aircraft after the weather suddenly turns bad. If the pilot has poor visibility, he’ll have to not only use computer supported navigation to makeup for his lack of vision, but also his own intuition if he wants to make a safe landing. For a robot to perform such a task independently is almost unheard of today and this trend will continue for quite some time.
The main concern many have is how the advancement of robots will change the economy, and when that change will begin to manifest. Rest assured, robots are not going to drastically change the economy by replacing human jobs any time soon. If the past is any indication, economic factors such as productivity and labor support the delayed assimilation of robots in the workplace.
Clear Indicators That Your Job Is Safe:
Automation allows companies to produce more by hiring less people, so a wave of robotic implementation should stimulate productivity growth, right? As it turns out, productivity growth over the past decade is at its lowest historical level. In the “golden age” of the American economy, between 1947 and 1973, labor productivity grew by an average of 3% per year. But since 2007, this figure has decreased to about 1.2% – the lowest it has been since the Second World War. Some recent years have hit as low as 0.6%, despite the introduction of robots into the workplace.
The labor market statistics
Our economy is more robotic and mechanized than it has ever been. So shouldn’t this increase unemployment? So far it hasn’t. The unemployment rate sits at approximately 5%. In many areas, companies are complaining about a shortage of employees, rather than a surplus of labor. Although millions of workers lost their jobs during the Great Recession, everything in an economic sense is basically back to normal.
The cost of labor
Salaries have also grown. In general, this is a historical trend, but now their growth is ahead of inflation and productivity. This would not be happening if human-employment was becoming a thing of the past.
What Does the Automation of Labor Actually Bring?
If automation provoked labor migration, people would be changing jobs in record numbers. But the facts point to the contrary. In the US, labor migration is at a record low. Between the year 2000 and now, economic migration reached only 38% of what it was between 1950 and 2000. This statistic barely approaches the “golden era of stability” in the 1950s when many types of new robots, machines and automated processes were being introduced into the economy.
However, this does not mean that new trends won’t have a significant impact on the economy. It is not possible to predict how the economy will change by only taking into account a single factor such as robots. When predicting changes in the labor market, many different factors need to be considered. This is a more correct way to make an economic forecast, in contrast to the catastrophic predictions of the British Minister that were mentioned earlier.
A large-scale study conducted in 17 countries showed that in the sphere of production, agriculture and household services, the amount of labor needed for low-skilled employees is shrinking, but the total amount of work offered is not. Also, salaries are on the rise. In other words, automation changes the approach to work and changes work-related tasks for better, often making them safer and improving health conditions. But for the foreseeable future, automation does not threaten to leave us all unemployed.