Will AI Take Our Jobs?


By Benji Adams, January 26, 2017

Another popular "fear of AI" article I've seen a lot is getting clicks by stoking the fear that AI will take our jobs. Let's take a look at this from a more measured, clear-headed perspective.

Will AI take our jobs?

Yes.

HOORAY!!!

That's right. AI will take over some of our jobs and this is awesome news. How many of you love working 40+ hours a week? What if AI taking over more of our work meant you just had to work less? Just as factory automation and robotics has done, AI will be able to take over a number of jobs, and if we manage it correctly, free us up to do more of what we like; what we care about. You'll be able to spend more time with your family, hang out with your friends, play games, enjoy your hobbies, relax, and enjoy all that life has to offer outside the grind of the work week.

Did you know that telephone operators had to manually connect telephone lines on a switchboard to get your call to go through? But advancements in technology made those jobs obsolete. Do we culturally mourn the loss of those jobs? No, we're glad that things got easier. Costs went down and our phone lines connect almost instantly now. Those people lost their jobs, but they got new ones. I've lost jobs before. It's a pain, but then you get a new job and all is well again.

What if you had an AI android helper who took care of all the cleaning in the house, did the dishes, the cleaning, the laundry, the home repairs, and more? That would free up so much time. Is that something to be scared of? Or is it something to celebrate?

The challenge

As it stands, our technological advancements are benefiting those that own them. Whoever owns the robotic assembly-line factories gets the financial benefit of laying everyone off and having technology do their work instead. We're close enough now to imagine service jobs coming under the category of something AI could do. And as with factory automation and robotics, some people will lose their jobs while the owners of those technologies benefit. More and more money will be concentrated into the hands of fewer and fewer. We'll all benefit by the low cost of what's being produced, but it's true that jobs will be lost. So here's the dark picture being painted. And yes, that is what's happening now and that's how it will go until we do the right thing.

The answer

The answer is quite simple, but it will take a smart, educated people and acts of government. Our first step? We lower the full-time work week to 30-35 hours. Later on, if we get it right, we can lower it more. This distributes the existing work among more people. We raise minimum wage. Governments must at the same time close tax loopholes, and prevent too much wealth from concentrating in the hands of the few. Governments then use that money to extend services that reduce the cost of living for everyone. Maybe.. your energy bill is covered. Maybe healthcare is covered. We work less since more is getting done by the technology we've developed. We have to shape our laws and society so that technological advancement fulfills its promise of making life easier by freeing us from having to work as long and hard as we do.

Our technological advancement can free us. It doesn't have to be a constant treadmill of working harder and harder to make faster and faster progress. To what end? There's only one end that really matters: Happiness. We have made great strides in technology. Freedom is our reward, if we are smart enough to realize it and embrace it.