I’ve written about this before, and had many a discussion at work, in length about how far automation has come and where it’s going. These conversations regularly lead to the question of what’s more important: Automation or jobs?
In the last 5 years Artificial Intelligence (AI) and computing has advanced faster than in the preceding 20 years, although many people argue where AI really started to evolve and take root.
Some believe it to be deep blue beating the world chest champ in 1997, some seem to think that it’s IBM Watson winning jeopardy in 2011 in against the best players in the world.
In the last 5 years we have seen driverless cars, intelligent OCR, computer assistants and intelligent machines, billions and billions of dollars being pumped in by the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple to be the first to win the AI race.
If you don’t believe me just ask your Google assistant, Alexa or even Siri.
Job loss and automation.
A report by Centre for Cities states that one in five jobs in cities across Great Britain are likely to disappear, that’s about 3.6 million jobs. These jobs are highly repetitive in nature which makes it easier for robots to learn, hence the displacement.
If you are interested about your own job and how easy it is to automate, BBC have a website that determines the likely hood of your job being automated, all you need to do is follow this link, Will a robot take my job.
My telesales role has a 99% chance to be automated in in the coming years, I have, perhaps, two possibilities before I lose my job in the future, up skill my job role with constant learning or move to a less developed country where automation and technology is slow to be adopted (ok so there are more options than this and lots of them less extreme but…).
Will we see a re-emergence of the Luddite?
In the early 19th century English textile workers and weavers protested the use of machinery that automated parts of their jobs, they would soon become known as luddites.
Many believed they were protesting the machines themselves and as their form of protest they would destroy said machines.
But the Luddites were not against technology but how their employers were using machines in fraudulent and deceitful way to get around labour practices.
They were more concerned by the amount of time they had spent learning these skills and how they could be replaced by cheaper less skilled workers.
Does this sound familiar, could we see the rise of the Luddites again in the coming years?
Axe wielding men and women smashing servers and pushing over robots just to save their livelihoods.
Should we put humans’ lives over advances in technology?
Automation and technological advancement have come on very fast, we already see it at virtually every supermarket, shop and petrol station with things like automated car washes and tills.
Amazon are going one step further and are introducing a fully till-less shopping experience, picking up the item and walk out of the shop without needing to pay for it in traditional ways, further eliminating the need for people in these areas.
Should we at least try to slow the advance of technology for the sake of the people?
Would it be more beneficial for to have a slower system with more potential human errors but mass employment in unskilled jobs?
There have been many times when mass unemployment has had a massive effect on the economy and the people.
In a dystopian future, robots and software will take the role of a human, these people are now jobless and meaning that they are no longer receiving a wage… Which means less money for spending.
This causes business profits to decline which in turn means even more unemployment.
In this scenario, many more people will be relying on the government for help but with less people putting in and more people taking out.
Would it be better for business to reduce possible efficiency of business operations through human interaction and associated risk of errors, but keeping people in jobs?
These jobs often create a sense of purpose, allowing people to feel like they are helpful part of society.
The workers feel happy and content with life, jobs allow people to grow and learn, to achieve and better themselves, the wages they make allow them to earn and spend.
This spending keeps the economy strong and growing.
One option that has been put across by Bill Gates (amongst many others) to keep the economy strong would be to tax the robots and software that have replaced the humans, instead of income tax the companies would be taxed on the machines that they have invested in.
There are, of course, some problems with this option that have yet to be worked out. Questions such as “how much do you tax a robot?” and “what about the other countries that don’t tax their robots and therefore offer a cheaper choice, how do you compete?”
A possible second option that may work, instead of taxing the robots is to put a higher tax on corporate profits.
With the reduction of staff expanses businesses should be able to build up bigger cash reserves and improved profits from their automation.
The higher tax on profits will allow the government to create a Basic Universal Income, people receive a monthly income from the state.
People then use this money to pay bills, buy food, entertainment and products, the money goes back in to business.
Instead of humans working 40 hours a week the robots work all day every day, the business is now running more efficiently allowing the output of the business to increase as well as profits, as the economic output increases so does the state.
This is just a premise for now and is very simplified but could be an adaptable option for the future and is something that is often debated by academics in these fields.
Up next: Dubai’s on its way to becoming paperless, is this the change we’ve been waiting for?