Man vs. Machine – Are we Safe?
As children grow up, they are often told that they can become whatever they want to be. As of future careers, children may dream of working within retail, as drivers, or some may even want to work within banking. Very diverse occupations, but there is one common denominator: it is highly unlikely that there will be need for labor within these occupational categories in the near future.
The 4th Industrial Revolution is Upon Us
The reason why such a powerful statement can be made, is because we live in an era often referred to as 4th Industrial Revolution. A revolution driven by technology, and in which the frequency and the rapidity that this technology evolves with can be described as a non-linear curve. Among those influential factors disrupting the traditional pattern for technology development, and which will affect both your and my daily life, as well as a number of companies, is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Thinking “this does not apply to me”, or that the effects caused by such technologies imply Sci-Fi belonging to the distant future, is naive.
AI will Either be the Best or the Worst thing Ever to Happen to Humanity
The truth is that the boundary between authentic and less authentic realities is becoming increasingly blurred, due to robotics and automation taking over our work, wholly or partly. With time, this may cause you and me both to become victims of redundancy, as the necessity of our value delivery might be eliminated. Stephen Hawking is one of many who has dedicated a significant proportion of his attention towards AI, in which he has expressed both enthusiasm and skepticism regarding the topic. A quote that has particularly aroused my interest, is Hawking´s statement worded as follows:
“In short, the rise of powerful AI will be either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity. We do not yet know which”.
Saving the World rather than Saving Ourselves?
However, regardless of which of Hawkings´ beliefs that will prove to be true, the world cannot be painted in black and white – rather, it needs to be presented nuanced. Thus, when talking about being redundant in our work due to the benefits associated with automation and robots, it is common to make a distinction between work requiring interaction with other people and work that does not require it. Obviously, the process of replacing humans working in the latter category will be frictionless compared to the first. An example of a vulnerable occupational group is, perhaps not surprisingly, drivers. I.e., this profession will be hit hard due to the continuous introduction of driverless cars to the communities in near future. It is worth mentioning that Dubai leads the way, of where 25 % of all trips are said to be unmanned by 2030 (Jesus, 2016). This can be deemed as a part of a "saving the world" - strategy, as the initiative subsequently will prove to have positive impacts, e.g. reducing pollution and the number of traffic accidents that take place today.
Further on, the question will consequently be how we can save ourselves in our attempt to save the world. That is; how do we assert ourselves in such situations? Davenport and Kirby, authors of "Only Humans Need Apply: Winners and Losers in the Age of Smart" state that humans must differ from the machines' skills. More specifically, they believe that we can respond to advances within AI by either to "step up", "step aside" or "step in” (Press, 2016), meaning that we must outsmart the machines, choose work that machines cannot do, or act as a bridge between humans and machines, respectively.
That sounds reasonable enough, or what? People who have previously been working as drivers can e.g. enter the category "step in", where they provide service on the self-running cars instead. But is it really that simple? If so, one can conclusively argue that the technology has become the controlling part in the relationship between man and machine, and not vice versa.
If Controlled by Technology – Can We be Safe?
Summarized, it can be stated that even though technology entail opportunities, the subject also has remarkable consequences attached to it. The extent of these consequences makes it essential to ask ourselves: will we be safe in our current jobs? And can we tell the next generation that they can become whatever they want to when they grow up?