No one is prepared to stop the robot onslaught. So what will we do when it arrives?
I think AI will have a serious impact on jobs within 5 years. It’s going to move fast. Steve Levine writes in Quartz:
You’ve heard about the robots—how they are on their way to vaporize the jobs of tens of thousands of bankers and brokers on Wall Street, in the City of London, and in trading hubs around the world. How they are bent on inflicting similar mayhem in law and accounting firms, and in computer-programming pools.
How, if you wear a white collar, male or female, watch your back.
And how all that’s just for starters. Advances in supercomputers and the understanding of neural networks are combining to create a revolution in robotics, and companies eager for more profitability and cheaper production are ruthlessly grabbing the new technology to automate rote jobs.
Blue-collar workers—forget about it. The robots will kill off the positions of half a million oil-rig hands, up to half the industry’s workforce around the world, along with hundreds of thousands of warehouse employees, Amazon-ized by automated forklifts and other machines. Then there are the drivers—the navigators of taxis and long-haul trucks, who make up some 17% of the adult US work force, adding up to about 7 million people, to be replaced by robot cars if competition from Uber’s roster of of 1.5 million drivers doesn’t put them out of business first. Fast-food workers—the hard-working teens, first-generation immigrants, and return-to-work moms who are the bedrock of burger joints everywhere—are also on the firing line as ordering kiosks begin to take the place of human cashiers.
Estimates of how many jobs in all the robots will wipe out, and when, vary wildly. Economists say somewhere between 9% and 47% of workers in the West could lose jobs to automation over the next two or so decades. They forecast that as much as 40% of the Fortune 500—the companies as a whole—could vanish entirely within a single decade, driven out by algorithms. In China and India, meanwhile, they predict the disappearance of between 25% and 69% of jobs.
Industries have weathered massive disruptions before. Through two centuries of technological revolutions, positions eliminated in one sector have been replaced by even more jobs in others. Perhaps this time will be the same; or perhaps technology will overwhelm the capacity for ingenious humans to invent sufficient new businesses to employ the population.
Perhaps in a lot of cases, not entire jobs, but large percentages of the duties involved will be diverted to robot labor. Either way, it seems clear that change is coming. How quickly it unfolds is another matter. In the case of 19th century British Industrial Age workers, historians note that it took six decades for laborers to resettle and start to win higher wages once factory automation took hold. How long it will take workers to adjust in the age of mass-market robots is not known, but as in the early Industrial Age, they seem likely to face a drawn-out and agonizing transition. . .