Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots were meant to improve efficiencies and save mankind from mind-sapping boring and repetitive jobs. But the media is now full of fear. People are afraid of unemployment and it is AI and robotics they blame when jobs are lost.
But is AI really to blame? Or should AI and robots be welcome?
Let’s look at some examples of where AI and robots are taking over.
In retail Amazon have launched a brick and mortar store in Seattle that is cashierless.
Not to be outdone, in London Sainsbury have opened a checkout-less option with technology that uses the customer’s mobile phone to track purchases. No more queueing for checkouts as you shop here. The store, just outside of Euston station, is one I frequently use. I welcome a speedier checkout when I dash for a train.
But of course, cashierless and checkout- less will mean fewer jobs. So maybe that is the trend.
Will AI Create Jobs!
But wait a minute, that isn’t the whole story. Behind the scenes, someone had to build the app, security and data handling. That’s a job, isn’t it?
And people will still control the process.
But perhaps it means there will not be so many jobs now as there were cashiers.
So maybe we need to look back into history. To a day when jobs were put at risk by new technology. If we look back far enough, in the early 1800s, in England the Luddites were destroying machinery in cotton and woollen mills. They feared their jobs would be lost. The reality was that jobs in England went, but many more sprung up in India and similar countries. Cotton became affordable for the masses. Some jobs were lost and many more created.
And when Henry Ford built his production line the car became affordable. Production line jobs were created. Car sales soared. Car salesman proliferated, car insurance appeared and with it insurance salespeople. Garages were opened to service cars; that meant even more jobs. After a while, we started to see people running licencing centres, parking attendants, car washes and more. All creating employment.
OK, so far in this story AI has had no impact. But the next part of the story involves AI and robotics. Production lines replaced people with robots.
But as that increasingly happens a new generation of vehicles are being created. Driverless cars depend on AI. And to create them people are designing the cars, the systems and all that goes into creating a safe system.
More Job Creation Lessons from History
Let’s go back to another example. The advent of the tractor and early lorries put horseman out of business. But we saw more jobs created in the leisure industry. Horse riding for pleasure can’t be run by an app, AI or a robot. It needs sentient beings to look after a horse and to teach riding. And there are more horses in the UK today than in the age of the horse! There is a lot of employment in horsecare, equine dentistry, pharmaceuticals, teaching, insurance, competition, breeding, training and much more.
And today we have more truck drivers in the UK and US than there were ever drivers of coach and horses. Certainly, AI will put many out of jobs but, if history teaches us anything, it is that mankind is resilient and finds work for people.
There are other growing industries that are people dependent. Today we have more old people living longer. They need carers. Care is a rapidly growing sector. A machine can’t provide care and empathy. We can’t yet programme empathy into AI.
And this isn’t the only sector that needs people. The only problem is that I can’t name all the sectors that will exist but don’t yet.
I’m not being negative when I say that.
Go back a few years before machines existed to replace millworkers and no one had envisaged the machines that took over. No one knew about cars before they were invented. No one could foresee the rapid expansion of car ownership and all those jobs in insurance, fuel refining and sales, car accessories etc.
And today we only have hints of the new jobs that are going to exist tomorrow.
AI Created Jobs of the Future.. Will AI Create Jobs?
I can surmise that Opportunity Spotters and Impact Assessor jobs could come into being as we seek new employment opportunities. And, as agriculture is taken over by bots, drones and AI; I can see the need for drone pilots and vertical farming technicians.
And those AI drones are already creating new opportunities in everything from archaeology to zoology. Drone technology is surging ahead and needs people.
That’s not all. As online shopping grows .. and remember the UK does more online shopping per capita than any other country .. we need better digital marketing, e-commerce and finance systems. And to run all this with AI we need AI specialists. Companies like Sentient Technologies. Companies like Sentient didn’t exist before AI. They didn’t employ people. AI has created these jobs and AI cannot replace these people.
And as much of our online shopping could be drone delivered there will be new jobs created here as well. Boeing has already designed a drone that can carry a 500-pound payload. And as drones proliferate they will create as many new jobs as the car did. We’ll need people to determine standard drone classifications. New docking systems will need drone docking engineers. Drone insurance will need insurers specialising in drones There will also be operator certification specialists to be trained and to keep the noise down we’ll need sound diminution engineers. Controlling the flights will come under drone traffic control and planning their flights to have minimum visual and environmental impact we’ll need traffic optimisers.
AI Created Jobs; Fact or Fiction
Will all these jobs exist? I’m not totally sure, any more than the inventors of the car knew what they were starting and what jobs they would create.
What I do know is that AI cannot yet work in the unknown. To design the software and control systems for all these jobs people will be needed. Drones are not capable of abstract thought yet. That is the role of the human.
Likewise, AI is not yet able to envisage the future. They haven’t thought through the jobs that things like cryptocurrencies will create. The future will see the need for cryptocurrency theft investigators, cryptocurrency theorists, philosophers and advocates. It takes a human brain to think this through and become the thought leaders of the future.
Another world needing abstract thought as well as compassion, and ethics is 3D printing. Not the sort that will print buildings. The sort that will print new organs for organ transplant.
It will take very special people to think through the ethics of this technology. New jobs will be created. We’ll see more people with skills in gene sequencing, DNA sciences and a new breed of bio-factory doctors. AI can’t do this yet.
In time AI will be able to do some of these jobs. But they will never be able to be artists or compete in human sport. That is the realm of people. They can’t care for others, have compassion or be on par with humans in so many fields.
So Will AI Create Jobs? Yes.
And for every role that AI takes on, there will be a myriad of new jobs for people.
And every new job is a training opportunity for FE to become involved in. What are we waiting for?