As I’ve noted here several other times, job automation is the most underreported story in the national discussion, something that is sure to cause future social upheaval of the highest order.
If you pay attention, though, you’ll see various news articles popping up all over the place.
“Robots ‘could replace 250,000 UK public sector workers’” reports The Guardian:
Almost 250,000 public sector workers could lose their jobs to robots over the next 15 years, according to a new report which claims machines would be more efficient and save billions of pounds.
Reform, a right-of-centre thinktank, says websites and artificial intelligence “chat bots” could replace up to 90% of Whitehall’s administrators, as well as tens of thousands in the NHS and GPs’ surgeries, by 2030 – saving as much as £4bn a year.
Even nurses and doctors could fall victim to the march of the machines, which the report says can outperform humans at some diagnoses and routine surgical procedures, and are more efficient at collecting information.
From Andrew Yang’s article “Silicon Valley is right—our jobs are already disappearing”:
Stephen Hawking says that “we are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity” and that the “rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”
Sam Hinkie, the smartest man in sports and a Stanford grad, asks, “How are you preparing your kids for a life with 60% unemployment?”…
Literally the smartest people in the world think an unprecedented wave of job destruction is coming with the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, software and automation. My friends in Silicon Valley have read the Second Machine Age and Rise of the Robots and they see a wave coming.
The White House published a report last month that reinforced this view. Some of the headline stats:
- 83% of the jobs where people make less than $20 per hour will be subject to automation or replacement.
- Between 9% and 47% of jobs are in danger of being made irrelevant due to technological change, with the worst threats falling among the less educated.
- Between 2.2 and 3.1 million car, bus and truck driving jobs in the U.S. will be eliminated by the advent of self-driving vehicles.
Read that last sentence again: we’re confident that between 2 and 3 million Americans who drive vehicles for a living will lose their jobs in the next fifteen years. Self-driving cars are the most obvious job-destroying technology, but there are similar innovations ahead that will dislocate cashiers, fast food workers, customer service representatives, groundskeepers and many many others in a few short years. How many of these people will be readily employable elsewhere?…
The Great Displacement is already here and is set to accelerate.
High rates of unemployment are linked to higher rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, depression and just about every other social ill. Despair, basically. Note the recent spike in drug and opioid overdoses in the U.S. If you care about communities and our way of life, you care about people having jobs.
This is the most pressing economic and social issue of our time; our economy is evolving in ways that will make it more and more difficult for people with lower levels of education to find jobs and support themselves.
It’s a boiling pot getting hotter one degree at a time. And we’re the frog.
From a Wired article titled “The AI Threat Isn’t Skynet. It’s the End of the Middle Class”:
In the US, the number of manufacturing jobs peaked in 1979 and has steadily decreased ever since. At the same time, manufacturing has steadily increased, with the US now producing more goods than any other country but China. Machines aren’t just taking the place of humans on the assembly line. They’re doing a better job. And all this before the coming wave of AI upends so many other sectors of the economy. “I am less concerned with Terminator scenarios,” MIT economist Andrew McAfee said on the first day at Asilomar. “If current trends continue, people are going to rise up well before the machines do.”…
But after his talk, in the hallways at Asilomar, so many of the researchers warned him that the coming revolution in AI would eliminate far more jobs far more quickly than he expected.
Indeed, the rise of driverless cars and trucks is just a start. New AI techniques are poised to reinvent everything from manufacturing to healthcare to Wall Street. In other words, it’s not just blue-collar jobs that AI endangers. “Several of the rock stars in this field came up to me and said: ‘I think you’re low-balling this one. I think you are underestimating the rate of change,’” McAfee says.
Will the idea of a ‘univeral basic income’ (UBI) become more palatable? It probably will, but this brings its own obvious risks:
That threat has many thinkers entertaining the idea of a universal basic income, a guaranteed living wage paid by the government to anyone left out of the workforce. But McAfee believes this would only make the problem worse, because it would eliminate the incentive for entrepreneurship and other activity that could create new jobs as the old ones fade away. Others question the psychological effects of the idea. “A universal basic income doesn’t give people dignity or protect them from boredom and vice,” Etzioni says.
What about regulation to stop the rate of A.I. displacement? In our wonderfully globalized economy, this has its own risks as well:
Also on researchers’ minds was regulation—of AI itself. Some fear that after squeezing immigration—which would put a brake on the kind of entrepreneurship McAfee calls for—the White House will move to bottle up automation and artificial intelligence. That would be bad news for AI researchers, but also for the economy. If the AI transformation slows in the US, many suspect, it will only accelerate in other parts of the world, putting American jobs at even greater risk due to global competition.
In other words, Schumpeter’s law of creative destruction applied to… capitalism itself.
So, what is to be done?
In the end, no one left Asilomar with a sure way of preventing economic upheaval. “Anyone making confident predictions about anything having to do with the future of artificial intelligence is either kidding you or kidding themselves,” McAfee says.
The future of Job automation is really just a continuation of the hallowing out of the Rust Belt that started in the 1980s.
In very short order, however, this dynamic will ‘slowly’ hit the rest of America.