Before revolution, new technologies and rising automation

Before the beginning of the fourth industrial revolution, new
technologies and rising automation created a surge of new industries and
promised better, higher paying jobs that usually required only slightly more education
than previously seen. This was great for the world and everything moved along
smoothly. So this time around with the innovation of artificial intelligence
(AI), technology is moving at a rate at which the job market is having
difficulty keeping up with. Since AI can learn from its own experiences, this
poses a new threat to the entire workforce. Now technology is not just made up
of stupid machines doing repetitive programmed work; technology builds on
itself to better its work.

It’s important to point out that AI has already arrived. However, the
majority of AI in use is Weak AI.
Weak AI suggests the next
YouTube video, spellchecks text messages, and auto guesses the next word.
However, Strong AI learns new talents and jobs and does not just look for
pattern recognition. Hanson Robotics created the first ever AI to receive
citizenship – Sophia. In Sophia’s own words, she is, “like a baby with an
encyclopedia” (2017). So since new AI robots are smarter than humans from the
start, how can humans stay economically valuable to compete? With this question
in mind, there are two answers that can be considered: the short-term solution
and the long-term solution.

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            In short term, it is important to note that since technology
advancements have created new jobs that require more education, the answer lies
within higher education. And for the first time ever, education cannot keep up
with the rate of technological advancements. This in part is due to two
problems. Firstly, the cost of education is too high. The United States
currently holds the highest tuition fees in the world (Forbes, 2017). Public
yearly tuition fees could fall at $8,200, but private universities usually fall
between $30,000-$50,000 a year. Clearly, countries that provide tuition-free
education are ahead of the curve, but the entirety of the world does not fall
in order with that just yet. Secondly, educational institutions need to
revolutionize their programs and work with technology. Since the 1950s, the
generic education model has stayed roughly the same. This is a great
shortcoming of society. Computers used to be made up of ones and zeros, but
with the invention of quantum computing and the expansion of natural language
processing, they are harder and harder to understand without obtaining more
education. As Carl Sagan brilliantly put it, “We live in a society exquisitely
dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything
about science and technology” (1990).

In long-term thinking, there
will always be a place for people in the world. However, their place may not be
in the present-day definition of the “workforce.” What today is defined as
“work” may become redefined. What the economy has proved in the past is that
the workforce evolves and changes to meet its environment. While manufacturing
jobs are in steep decline, service jobs have risen to make up for the change in
focus. The idea that technology will wipe out jobs entirely (and henceforth the
use of human beings) begs the “Luddite Fallacy,” which was an idea that was
created after a 19th century group of employees destroyed their new
weaving machines that put them out of business (Mahdawi, 2017). In addition to
this, when ATMs were created, people were afraid that all bank tellers would go
out of business, but as it so turns out, some people need other humans there to
help them out. In addition to this, humans trust human interaction more than
interaction with technology, and this gives the employees an upper hand to
suggest different complimentary services. In all of automation, only one job
has been completely eradicated in its category, and that is elevator operators
(Mahdawi, 2017). Other jobs have simply morphed into something new.

To play the devil’s advocate side, on the odd chance that in 500 years
the robots take over all of the jobs, should everyone be worried? Is this
actually a problem? Sharan
Burrows with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in Belgium
spoke on the fact that the jobs lost from automation and AI is not the main
question. Sure, it’s a serious question and that’s undeniable, but it’s only
serious because of how our economic model defines economic value. We must
define what “work” is in the future, because perhaps the definition of “work”
will be different. We must redefine how we distribute wealth and define what
the future of jobs will be.

To sum up the answer to today’s
problem, education must be an essential task-force operation in order to stay
on the playing field with AI as a new competitor. In addition to this, if AI
does not take all the jobs within this century, a new technology will take all
the jobs within the next century, so economies must prepare for the eradication
of what we define as “work” today and create a new way of economically defining
value and distributing value.

Stewart Wallis from the New
Economics Foundation in the United Kingdom said there must be a shift in the
system that already exists. It’s not an argument of capitalism vs. communism. A
whole new economic revolution of how economic value is defined needs to be
created with the growing entry threat of AI into different areas of the
workforce. Wallis said: “History tells us a shift is triggered by a new story
of how we want to live” (2016). Here in the fourth industrial revolution, we
are beginning to redefine human purpose.

            Therefore,
perhaps AI will take all the jobs, but there will always be new innovation and
new technology to create if we move in the right direction. Perhaps, in the
future, economic resources will be more heavily allocated towards education so
that people can project themselves forward into the future. Or perhaps we will
continue to fight ever-growing technology. However, now that it has become
starkly apparent that we can create technology that can grow and learn from
itself, the idea of fighting technology in the workplace because it is viewed
as “half-worthy” in correlation to humans is irrational. Once Pandora’s box is
open, it cannot be closed. Humankind’s ability to find value in themselves has
always been a core competency of life and has projected the human race beyond
the stars. However, there is a point at which every core competency can become
a core rigidity if we are not willing to change if it is required. At this
point in history, it is premier that we realize that our future is illustrated
in the best light and best possible outcome when humans and robots work
together. The core competencies of AI (accuracy, mathematical efficiency,
reliability) mesh best with the core competencies of humans (ability to measure
cause and effect, innovation, creativity, intuition). Maybe truly we have
finally made an innovation that is our match. There is a phrase that states,
“Opposites attract,” and that is not a bad thing at all. AI has in itself the
competencies that we will not be able to achieve, and AI has the competencies
that we do not possess. Perhaps it is high time to stop fighting and join
forces.