There is a concept in mathematics called singularity and you’ve probably heard of it; people use analogies like the center of a black hole to define it as it is intensely hard a concept to grasp. It is basically trying to define a function that is predicted to become infinite in the future. But the singularity you’ve heard probably doesn’t have to do with gravitational fields or mathematical functions. The more accurate buzzword is technological singularity: a hypothetical point in future where technological growth will be so intense and irreversible that it replaces everything. Are you thinking “Yeah right”? Well, people are actually freaking out about this. A survey conducted in America shows that 72% of Americans actively worry about a future in which robots replace their jobs. In fact, there is a website called “willrobotstakemyjob.com” which returns projections related to automation risk, projected growth and so forth. Before you start rushing to quit your current job that is potentially vulnerable to automation and enrol in a computer science program, take a deep breath. Or maybe read this article and then decide if that is the appropriate course of action.
You might have noticed a trend so let me point it out for you. The jobs that will likely be replaced involve repetitive or white-collar tasks. Former IBM mover shaker Dr. Irving Wladawsky argues that some jobs like those mentioned above “are more susceptible to automation, while others require judgment, social skills and other hard-to-automate human capabilities.” The way I like to put it is: those jobs that have an apparent human touch to them are safe.
MIT Professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Daniel Rock argue that the discussion isn’t about what jobs will be lost. We should instead shift focus to redesigning jobs and business processes. In fact, automation will likely not “wipe out” many jobs altogether. Instead, it will automate certain repetitive aspects to them, creating more room for quality, creativity and productivity.
Earlier this year the media lost its mind over CBS’ 60 Minutes episode with venture capitalist and former AI expert for Microsoft and Google, Kai-Fu Lee. Lee said that artificial intelligence is set to displace 40% of workers in 15 years. What a lot of people missed amidst the threatening news was Lee’s point on how its ultimately in human beings’ hands whether the AI story has a happy ending. Focusing on building the right skills to navigate this time of massive transformation, we can reach a golden age.
How are all these experts staying so optimistic about the concept of singularity? First and foremost, they know first-hand what AI lacks and will never possess: emotion. Empathy, imagination, compassion, creativity, trust… These are all uniquely human phenomenon. Even if AI can attempt to imitate them, it will never fully possess them or make use of them.
Lee summarizes his intake as follows: “People don’t want to listen to robots making speeches, leading the company, or giving pep talks. They do want to listen to robots in conversation making friends or earning our lifelong trust. Nor do they want a robot to do tasks like teachers and nurses. We will end up with the inevitable outcome that large numbers of routine jobs will be eliminated, and large numbers of empathetic jobs will be created.”
So, don’t fret! Simply evaluate whether your occupation stays true to qualities that make us human. If so, you’re good. If not, maybe consider a pivot in the near future or find a way to integrate emotion to what you do.
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