With every progression in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, the impending fear of total human spare tends to grow.
There are genuine forecasts for a jobless future, where AI-driven machines are capable of doing everything humans can, and on the other end of the spectrum, beached arguments for why technology will never replace more jobs than it creates.
The industrial revolution, for example, struck fears in workers (the original luddites) that their roles would soon be automated and obsolete; yet hundreds of years later, we're still in single-digit percent unemployment. However, strong technological optimists suggest that this technological revolution is different, due to its sheer potential and alarming pace. For instances, mobile app development, businesses, finance industry and machine learning system have all been transformed by AI.
So which is it? Can AI end up creating more jobs than it replaces? There's no clear answer to this question because a jobless future and one where ample new jobs are created to displace the old ones are both possible. Which future we end up in will depend on these factors:
1. What Technology is Introduced
Not all AI technology serves the same purpose. Some pieces of technology are designed to replace human interaction entirely, the way a robot vacuum cleaner is meant to prevent any further need for human vacuuming. Other pieces of technology are designed to expand human performance, like project portfolio management (PPM) software, which gives humans more information and better decision-making capabilities. Self-driving cars are a perfect example of this; some companies are trying to create cars that require no human input whatsoever, while others are looking to augment cars that already exist. On one end of the spectrum is job displacement, and on the other end is job replacement.
2. The Adaptability of the Labor Market
We also need to consider the flexibility of the labor market. If jobs are going to change, or be expatriated due to higher-level technology, the workforce needs to become more educated, more familiar with technology, and more adaptable if they're going to survive. If they can't keep up, engineers may gravitate toward more replacement.
3. Our Industrial Preferences
Despite the emergence of tech that can feasibly handle human roles, there's no guarantee that customers will prefer those high-tech alternatives. For example, 56 percent of people still prefer to talk to a human representative over an automated chatbot, even if the chatbot is technically more efficient. This industrial preference for human service could prevent machines from taking jobs entirely.
4. The Speed of Regulation
Some AI may be limited by legal and regulatory hurdles. For example, driverless cars are currently heavily regulated and monitored, and if AI programs start taking on important roles like prescribing medication or performing surgery, they'll need even more regulation. This regulatory hurdle likely won't be overcome quickly, and will therefore delay many forms of job replacement by several years, or even decades.
5. Market Demand
Not all businesses will have a strong desire or incentive to replace their full human staff. Some may want to fulfill their customers' desires for human interaction, and others may be reluctant to put their full trust in AI as an employment force. If there aren't enough industrial leaders to support the development and integration of new AI systems, engineers and developers won't put effort into creating it.
Part of AI's influence will depend on its scalability. For example, if a robot surgeon costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to create, hospitals wouldn't be able to replace their entire staff overnight; instead, they'd be subject to iterative replacements, one at a time, allowing for gradual adjustments to new conditions.
7. Other Socio-economic Factors
Because the creation and acceptance of new positions depends on thousands of complex economic and social factors, it's hard to say what else could influence the emergence of new jobs or disappearance of old ones.
For example, people may be uninterested to look for new work if it requires learning new skills, and companies may prefer automation to new human employees once demand starts to fall.
These aren't the only factors that could influence the rise and influence of AI technology, but they are some of the biggest ones we can currently recognize. The most important factors may be variables we haven't yet considered, or ones that turn up when we least expect them. All we can do is watch for AI's development, one step at a time, and be prepared for anything in the pipeline.