An optimistic view of automation and the future of jobs

Original author: Denis Pombriant
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imageDo robots and technologies capture the world, transferring people to the lower class? Before straining about this, remember that this usually happens as a result of automation. Automation does eliminate some jobs, but maybe it’s not so bad. As long as we think what we will do with the greater freedom afforded us by digital interventions in life, consider the lessons of the history of early automation.

If you believe Ilona Mask and his comrades, then sooner rather than later, robots will replace you. Mask and others believe that we will soon have a universal basic income (UBD). The government will provide non-working people with enough money not to work. Why? According to the statement by Vinnie Mirchandani [Vinnie Mirchandani] in the article “Slow Automation”:
At the 2014 Gartner Symposium / ITxpo, Gartner predicted that by 2025, every third job would be given to software, robots, and smart machines.

Who knows, maybe people will start to retire en masse. But if we take into account the historical evolution of the economy, we should not expect this in the near future. Tell the children not to shirk their homework.

Three factors interfere with freebies such as UBD, including new jobs, new features and "3D". Let me explain in more detail. Much has already been said about the emergence of new jobs thanks to technological breakthroughs.

For example, take the drones . From the news we all know that military drones are unmanned aerial vehicles used in combat. The pilot sits in a room at the other end of the world, driving the vehicle and dropping bombs. But the work of the drone pilot did not exist before the flying machine itself appeared.

New jobs appear when new opportunities, both technical and not, ensure their appearance. There were no digital marketers before the advent of marketing automation. Before the advent of computers, there were no programmers. Once a computer, i.e. the calculator, was a man who was good at calculating.

It took a whole year to verify all the calculations needed to create an atomic bomb, and all this work was done by people manually. Imagine if one of them had a pocket calculator. New technologies inspire new jobs. Old jobs do not automatically disappear, although some evaporate over time.

Many works disappear. The coachman, the manufacturer of whips. Or, in order not to go far, take agriculture. In the 19th century, almost everyone did it, but today less than 5% of people are engaged in it, and produce much more food - thanks to automation, tractors and combines.

So there are new jobs.

New automation features appear for low-level jobs, and it seems to me that this question is misunderstood today. Such functions reduce the need to work, which makes their assessment difficult, and the hiring of labor is almost impossible, because human labor is very expensive.

A great example would be chatbots and washing machines. We do not think about it, but washing clothes in a nearby river or pond, often without soap, was common until the beginning of the 20th century. The rich could hire people for this, and the rest had nothing to do. So a washing machine is a thing that works on its own and doesn’t take away work from anyone.

In an article in the Advertising Age entitled “Why bots will manage the business,” authored by Jamie Schwartz, bots do the same in the area of ​​producer-consumer relationships:
Bots can speak for brands, not in the sense of passing the Turing test and not to hit an audience like Watson. We are talking only about the fact that the consumer communicates with the brand about what he needs and what he wants.

You will say - here they are, lost jobs, but I will ask you not to rush. Jobs, or more precisely, the work that these bots do, was self-service before. Before that, if the work was not done, we received a bunch of dissatisfied customers, reworked employees and some exhaustion.

So, eliminating jobs may be illusory, and the upcoming bots are no smarter than washing machines. For example, you can read an article as a joke, as a bot from Microsoft turned into a racist after reading twitter. So much for “artificial intelligence”.

Indeed, automation can, and sometimes eliminates jobs, but often this is the kind of work that Vinni Mirchandani calls 3D, which means “boring, dirty and dangerous [dull, dirty, and dangerous]”. That is, there are works that my father performed, and my children will not be engaged in them. So automation plays an important role in advancing progress.

Replacing some works with others happens all the time, but with variable speed. During periods of high automation, you can see how many new jobs appear, and during periods of low - not so much. Periods with a small amount of innovation occur at the end of economic cycles, when we focus on efficiency (and automation), which naturally eliminates some jobs. But at the beginning of the next cycle, innovation creates new opportunities and new jobs.

Bots are a new cycle formed by today's automation, and you shouldn’t be afraid of them as much as automation, which is still beyond the horizons, which can do much more. The future AIs will create new jobs that will require additional skills.

So where are the bots and the AI ​​revolution going? I would say that at the end of the cycle. Bots are the maximization of modern efficiency and the transformation into a commodity of what went before them. Some jobs disappear, but some of them, in fact, were 3D works, and many of the functions simply save time and energy.

But we cannot ignore the fact that the speed of automation permits distortions where a smoother transition from work to work is necessary. At this point, UBD might make sense, but not in the long term. He is more suited to the role of a way to survive difficult times.

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