AI is great at tasks, but what about jobs?
There's been a fear of automation in the workforce as far back as work has existed. Machines taking jobs away from the people who need them has been and will continue to be a source of anxiety for many.
Though it may seem like a reasonable fear, it's far from reality. Yes, machines are capable of a growing number of increasingly complex tasks, but not every job is at risk of disappearing. Machines can handle menial labor and difficult calculations, but work that requires critical thinking skills is impossible to automate. Things might be different in the movies, but the machines that exist in real life learn through patterns and repetition. There are some jobs where automation doesn't enter the picture at all. So where's the line?
Tasks Versus Jobs
AI is fantastic at automating tedious patterns. These technologies handle menial tasks, like organizing information, precisely cutting out machine parts from metal, optimizing safety inspections and more.
Though the aforementioned tasks are part of a person's job, they aren't often the entire job. A secretary, factory line worker or foreman once responsible for those tasks would have more time for their other obligations.
In short, a task is a small part of a much larger process. The process is the job and what employees fear to lose. While some jobs will inevitably disappear, we aren't looking at the estimations we've seen in the past. There are and will still be plenty of jobs available that AI can never perform.
AI Is Still Unpopular
As the owner of a company, it's easy to look at some numbers and realize automation with a machine will save time, money and possibly create a safer environment for workers. The employees aren't likely to see things the same way, however. A survey from Pew Research Center found 72 percent of Americans were worried about robots in the workplace while only 32 percent were excited about the idea.
If a business owner is going to implement AI and robots in the workplace, one of the first things they should do is reassure their employees. If someone's going to lose their job, it's best to either be upfront about the situation or offer them a job in a different department with the same or better pay. Failing to account for the opinions and emotions of workers during the AI implementation process can significantly affect a business owner's success.
Jobs That Won't Vanish
AI should assist employees in fulfilling their responsibilities. It shouldn't make them feel threatened. Most of the time, AI will improve the work environment, but there are some jobs where machines aren't relevant. Archaeologists, animal scientists and public address announcers will always be around. Meanwhile, morticians, credit auditors and concierges' jobs are possible to automate in several ways.
One field that would benefit from the implementation of AI is healthcare. Home health, in particular, needs a human participant to ensure everyone's safety. Since home healthcare can be potentially dangerous, a human has to be present to handle patients and keep everyone out of harm's way.
AI Will Help Jobs
Though employees may need reassurance of this fact, AI is supposed to facilitate jobs, not render them obsolete. In fact, AI will create 58 million new jobs from 2018 to 2022. Even if AI eliminates certain jobs, there will still be 58 million new ones for the taking. Of course, it's important to consider specialties and education. Taking away one blue-collar job to create more white-collar jobs is great for business and the country but not great for those blue-collar employees.
Of course, there's going to be many unique situations and exceptions. In some cases, employees won't lose any jobs and several more will open up. In other cases, the whole company could go out of business. Things are going to play out differently for everyone. But on a global scale, the advancement of technology and AI in the workforce is ultimately good for the economy.
AI is advancing at an alarming pace, but it's not the existential threat that Hollywood movies often make it out to be. Engineers don't design the technology to feel emotions or make conscious choices for personal gain. At most, an AI will replicate the language patterns of a human being for a more conversational user experience, but that's for the purpose of engagement -- not some ulterior motive.
In truth, an AI is little more than a machine that's very good at one or more tasks. They'll never have the flexibility or creative problem solving skills as their human counterparts.
A little uneasiness over AI technology is natural, but when looking at the larger picture, it's clear that AI will create more jobs and add significant value to a company.
Kayla Matthews is a senior writer at MakeUseOf and a freelance writer for Digital Trends. To read more from Kayla, visit her website productivitybytes.com.