For as long as I can remember, particularly being a science fiction fan, automation would one day lead to a major loss of jobs as we know them today.
The prevailing themes being how mankind dealt with such a staggering societal shift with outcomes ranging from mass poverty and sickness to being so pampered we could barely stand on our own legs.
We all know automation will not just sudden sweep into our lives but will come in waves just as we have witnessed since the dawn of computers and robotics. Plus, we have Elon Musk out there making sure we all stay aware of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and that is never a bad thing from a man that seems to bend sheer determination into reality.
To some of us, automation conjures up almost comical images of vaguely humanoid robots scurrying all over doing all sorts of work with their arms and legs just as humans do.
That was a sci-fi driven fantasy from back in the day and seemed as farfetched as the concept of AI is today.
As we learned from industrial automation, robots come in all sizes, forms and until recently very few if any were in humanoid form. The robots were built for specific software driven, repetitive tasks like welding and assembly.
These workhorses were as good as their software allowed them to be which often lead to obsolete machines if the company didn’t put the proper emphasis on having IT experts or coders onboard. In fact, early on, it was sort of standard procedure in some shops to train the machinist or operators as the only onsite operators with little or no coding knowledge.
This scenario was great until the needs of the machine evolved due to changing conditions. If the company relied on outside coders it could be solved. If they bought the machines, trained one or two operators and left it at that… the industrial robots easily fell in disuse or outright obsolesce before their mechanical lifetime was over.
Advances in AI over the years has changed this situation to one in which automation will do things faster and better than their human counterparts in many areas. These AI advances are adding fuel to a fire that one day cannot be contained.
The AI of today is the more than just the stuff of dreams… it is a reality driven by an industry that will continue to deliver more automation in more areas of our life.
While some may see some kind of Skynet awakening in the future this writer is more concerned with the issue of employment and what we are going to do to mitigate the damage to the affected workforce.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is one solution that has been bandied about in recent times. Some with the belief that such savings and automation will create more income and wealth than us mere humans are capable of achieving.
This wealth will then be redistributed to those in need in the form of the aforementioned UBI.
I’m not holding my breath for that. While we have a long history over here in the US of A of redistributing wealth it’s never been in the THAT direction. Over here… redistribution means the poor get poorer and wealthy get to watch the poor get poorer.
It’s going to take a lot of persuasion and perhaps mass quantities of drugs to get America’s corporations to give up extra profit for wealth redistribution.
That won’t happen anytime soon and most likely won’t happened at the lightspeed of current AI development. As brilliant people transfer that brilliance to AI we become less relevant to the corporations and their shareholders.
There is no fighting it… no backing AI into a corner or getting it in a submission hold because it’s already taken us to the mat. Little Junior down in Ma and Pa’s basement can push out some brilliant AI in the right circumstances and with little to no outside help depending on the project.
What principals guide Junior’s life and therefore the development of his AI? What is the purpose of his deep learning experiments and are they guided by anything other than curiosity or worse… publicity in this connected age?
Now you see why Elon Musk is worried.
AI will continue to evolve and eat into employment as removing the human in most situations equates to higher profits. Removing humans means removing employment in a lot of cases.
Guess we should be worried too.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD at his website.