Robots are coming, are we losing our jobs?

Jerry Kaplan, the US artificial intelligent expert has recently made a speech, saying that many people think AI means to develop more and more intelligent machines until they finally exceed mankind on the capacity and take over human’s job opportunities, even take control of human beings and take over the whole world, however it’s actually not the case.


Is the machine more intelligent than people?

According to Jerry Kaplan, calculating was used to be done by smart and well-trained experts who are called calculators. This is a career. However now even an ordinary computer could achieve this. But we can not say that computers are smarter than mankind. There is another misconception that many people think AI mimics mankind to solve problems. Take machine learning for example, a machine needs to be shown a lot of pictures and learn them to know what a cat is. However a 3-year-old kid will know this with only one picture. What behinds the rapid development of machine learning is massive data that is stored in electronic form, it has nothing to do with the methods humans deal with problems.

Meanwhile, robots have no independent goals and desire, such as a robot that washes and folds clothes, it might be rather experienced, for example, it never folds clothes while you are sleeping, it knows how would you like your clothes to be folded. However it will never decide not to fold clothes but to sing one day.

Thus, AI could only be an extension of human’s effort on automation. This effort had existed since the industry revolution and is nothing new. Have robots replaced humans? Yes, they have in many places, not because they are smarter though, but because they offer lower cost and better quality. Automated factories would only exist while machines do better and cost less than human workers.

Who will lose their jobs due to robots?

What result will be brought by new AI in the next few decades? In the opinion of Jerry Kaplan, there are mainly 2 aspects: labor market and wealth distribution.


According to him, machines and computers can never accomplish all the jobs as human beings do, instead they can only automate all kinds of tasks. We could use technology to change our mode of work, but can not replace the work. Who would lose their jobs under this condition? Simple and repetitive jobs are more possible to be replaced by robots. If a job contains many different tasks, including the ability of analyzing and solving problems, it is hard to be taken over. For instance, a cashier in a bank needs to deal with multiple tasks at the same time, such as counting money, helping customers to deposit and withdraw money, opening an account for clients, etc, this is rather complicated, if a part of these works can be finished automatically by the robot, the cashier will be able to focus on more complex jobs and increase work efficiency. However if a job is mainly building a wall, it is very possible to be replaced by robots.

Besides, many jobs need to spend time on simple tasks, such as scientists going over lab reports, lawyers writing simple contracts and accountants filling in forms. If these works can be automated, the experts could focus their time on more valuable things.

How to deal with robot age?

Jerry Kaplan said technology will make our work more efficient or completely replace some jobs, after all we need less and less labor after automation. If you take the longest possible perspective, technology can not only boost productivity, but also improve production and reduce cost. This means the end users need to pay less to buy services and products, thus they will have more disposable income which in a result will increase demand, stimulate employment and provide more positions.

As he pointed out, under this circumstance, the new positions require more skills and professional competence than the past, however it is hard for the traditional unemployed workers to grasp the skills, this is structural or technical unemployment. If the process happens slowly, the labor market might have time to adapt to it, however if the change is sudden, it might bring very serious impact.

Jerry Kaplan believes all the technologies have similar influence to the world. AI is a tool and representation of automation which could alter our lives as well as the whole world in different forms. Of course technology is limited, AI is no exception, we hope to promote the economy and create more jobs through technology. The development of economy will promote social progress, however with the development of technology, we need to consider how to re-train and re-educate the workers in traditional industries, and build a new business model to deal with the future challenges.

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