computer chip labeled AI (artificial intelligence)

AI is Quietly Eating Up the World’s Workforce with Job Automation

Opinion

Now already in 2022, it’s hard to go on the internet without reading something about artificial intelligence, aka AI. The topic of AI is everywhere – on social media, blogs, and the news. There has been more than one book written about the fictional future of AI, as well as TV shows and movies. Some of what you will read is positive, others predict a scary-sounding future dystopian society. Recently some have come out saying that AI is slowly taking away not just repetitive factory jobs, but jobs in nearly all sectors. This is what they are saying.

AI Quietly Taking Away Jobs

When job automation first began being used, it was primarily for repetitive tasks. These were things like mundane factory jobs that involved just doing the same task over and over again. We saw AI at least partially take over other jobs, as well, such as grocery store cashiers. Finally, nearly all businesses now have some sort of automated customer service system. For some, it is entirely automated, while for others it is automated up to a point when you can request to talk to an actual person. (1)

At first, many people spoke out saying that this would be the limit to AI in the workforce. It will replace these repetitive jobs, however, those requiring more creativity will remain in the hands of humans. New reports and predictions based on the developing technology show that this is not the case. (2)

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Creative and “White Collar” Jobs At Risk, Too

For those who insist that AI will only take over the easily programmable, lower-skill jobs, think again. AI technology is far more advanced than many of us realize. It is capable of fixing issues for us with our own at-home technology without ever having to talk to a real person. In some phone and internet companies, for example, if you call in with slow internet, you now never actually talk with a real person. Rather, an artificial intelligence bot fixes the problem for you. In many cases, this actually is a far better solution for customers than talking to a real human being. No call holding, no clambering through comprehension issues or having trouble hearing someone. You simply state your problem and the bot fixes it.

Still, other more creative industries are seeing a rise in AI technology use. For example, AI copywriting exists. Rather than paying someone to write the copy for your business, you can hire an AI agency that will do it. You can’t tell the difference between an AI or human writer in these cases, and your robo-writer requires no payment or breaks. They can pump out a lot more in a lot less time than a human being can.

Other industries, such as translation and coding, are also seeing a slow rising in AI use over human employees. As you see, it goes far beyond just repetitive factory work. This, of course, has pretty big implications for society.

Read: Not bot, not beast: Scientists create first ever living, programmable organism

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The Implications of AI

In recent years, AI technology has become much better at understanding natural language. This is precisely why now it is better at acting and sounding much more, well, human. AI automation is in every single sector to some degree, whether you realize it or not. The reality is that machines and computers are faster and cheaper than humans, and every day they are becoming more and more intelligent. 

Many of the people who are pro-AI preach that this kind of technology will create more jobs than it takes away. Some say that it is so valuable and will bring so much to the economy that a universal basic income will be available to all, so even those that do lose their jobs to AI will be “okay”. There are just as many people who question this seemingly overly positive view of technology. Some worry that what that will do is simply set us up for a society with a massive divide between the employed and the jobless. These people will be stuck relying on money given to them by someone else with no possibility of making more for themselves. This potential dystopian future is imagined in many books, movies, and TV series.

Read: Elon Musk Says He Hopes to Start Putting Brain Chips in Humans Next Year

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The Educated Will Thrive, The Non-Educated Will Not

Plenty of people argue that with the new jobs that AI creates, overall employment will not be affected greatly. Critics, however, say that while largely those with higher education will be okay, it is those from disadvantaged backgrounds that will continue to be pushed downward. The poor, immigrants, minorities, and women will be the most affected. This is because these groups have a higher percentage of the jobs that are more easily automated, such as clerical work. While it will likely be a net positive for the economy, there is a huge risk that it will create yet a further divide between the rich and the poor.

Some of this can already be seen. According to a recent study, AI has actually been one of the primary drivers of income inequality and wage decline over the past 40 years. The average wage of a man with only a high school diploma, for example, is now 15% lower than it was in 1980. (3)

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“A new generation of smart machines, fueled by rapid advances in AI and robotics, could potentially replace a large proportion of existing human jobs,” said the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a recent report. “While some new jobs would be created as in the past, the concern is there may not be enough of these to go round, particularly as the cost of smart machines falls over time and their capabilities increase.” (4)

Of course, technology replacing jobs is not new – it has been happening for centuries. Still, for people in all sectors, it is becoming increasingly concerning. As AI technology continues to advance, governments will need to respond with regulations and laws that protect people while also allowing room for innovation. We still don’t know exactly to what extent and when AI will take over, however, it is certainly something that we should all be paying attention to. (5)

Keep Reading: Man Falls in “Love” with Robot and wants to Marry “Her”

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Sources

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  1. AI is quietly eating up the world’s workforce with job automation.” Venture Beat. Valerias Bangert. January 8, 2022 
  2. Automation is expanding. How worried should we be about jobs?Venture Beat. Gary Grossman, Edelman. April 11, 2021.
  3. Tasks, Automation, and the Rise in US Wage Inequality.” NBER. Daron Acemoglu, Pascual Restrepo. June 2021.
  4. Artificial Intelligence Has Caused A 50% To 70% Decrease In Wages—Creating Income Inequality And Threatening Millions Of Jobs.” Forbes. Jack Kelly. June 18, 2021.
  5. A short history of jobs and automation.” We Forum. Sean Fleming. September 3, 2020.
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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