Change is always terrifying to us, no matter how necessary it might be. The fear of technology getting out of hand isn’t a new one, and our ponderings and speculations will not end in the recent future either. The debate of tech taking over the world and disrupting our societies as we know it has seeped into our culture, discussions, as well as our movies.
Who can forget the dystopia portrayed in “The Matrix” (1999 sci-fi thriller) where reality is merely an illusion constructed by sentient machines? Or disregard the horrifying representation of humankind in Wall-E (2008)? Some may consider these stories as creative imaginations, but some of us cannot shrug off the sense of unease as we switch off our screens.
The fundamental question is simple- “Is the danger real?”What does history tell us about technology?
The discussion on technology taking over has been going on for a long time and history has many examples for us to dissect. In today's day and age, the primary concern is Artificial Intelligence and robot-like creatures taking over manual jobs, dooming us to unemployment. But technological shifts are by no means a new phenomenon, employment trends have been susceptible to change in technology throughout history. Technology has been casting its magic since the days of horse-drawn carriages. But, the trends are not reassuring at first glance.
- When the mechanized looms were invented several years ago, artisans found themselves without jobs.
- More recently, self-service tills have made retail cashiers almost obsolete.
When one considers the short run, technological change doesn’t have any good news in terms of employment and yes, in the past, it was evident technology replacing humans & jobs.
Economics has a term called "technological unemployment" and the famous economist John Maynard Keynes coined it. People since the Industrial Revolution have been worried about technology taking over their lives and leaving them in poverty. But Keynes was not a pessimist and he thought that this “adjustment” would manage itself over time. According to him, unemployment should not last forever. Several neoclassical economists also had the view that mass unemployment would not happen and people would find employment eventually.
However, many people do not agree with the British economist Keynes and neither are they bothered about the views of neoclassical economists. Their worry about jobs or the lack of them goes on. As Artificial Intelligence continues to improve by leaps and bounds, how will humans win at a competition with robots?
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." — Albert Einstein
Today is the age of globalization, where trade barriers cease to exist and there is a continuous flow of ideas and innovation. With higher degrees of automation, corporations all over the world have registered dramatic improvement in their productivity. Companies have direct benefits for developing AI as integrating these technological innovations will result in:
- Lower costs
- Increase in Efficiency
- The emergence of new business models
Analysts have forested that the global revenue from Artificial Intelligence will continue to rise and will reach the mark of $36.8 billion in 2025. Unfortunately, the wages of common workers have not grown as expected. The power of technology is growing with every passing day, and the so-called process of “adjustment” will not be without its costs. We can hardly blame the pessimists if the trends are worrisome.Step into the positive side
It is no secret that companies are investing in IA and automation, and as a result, there will be enormous changes in the labor market. Every century will have the tipping over the point where everyone despairs over their survival. But technology has not doomed us yet but the day might not be far when technology replacing humans. There are countless examples of humans and machines working together to increase productivity and building a new and improved future.
As productivity rises with including machinery, it is easier to produce products and it may lead to more consumer demand. And with increases in consumer demand, job growth will follow. Understandably, many kinds of old jobs will not survive anymore, but that doesn’t mean that there will be no need for humans in the workforce. With the new labour market structure, thousands of new jobs will also be created which will require new skills. This is where the process of change comes in. People will have to upskill themselves to adapt to the new world.
The nightmares of humans at war with robots are in fact unnecessary. It’s a give-and-take relationship, and technology and humans can coexist peacefully without turning it into some dystopian horror story. Humans have creativity on their side and supreme reasoning skills as well. With the destruction of the old, there will be the creation of new employment opportunities through many channels. The future demands that we work together and the process of it is already on the way.
When the total employment trends are considered over the long run, we can see that they have increased with every century. In spite of concerns, welcoming technology has not been a bad idea overall.Final Verdict
No one can say for sure how painful the process of adjustment might be. The young generation especially has a somewhat bleak overview of AI and the situations about the future workforce. Artificial Intelligence may indeed upset the balance for a while, creating rifts and increasing inequality.
However, trepidation about the future should not overcome creativity and insight. AI can be a source of massive employment too, creating better and new roles for humans. Our generation is a lot different from that of our grandparents, and we are all the better for it. Currently, we are a long way from creating "all-knowing" robots that are perfect at everything. Right now, robotics is confined to specific spheres and functions, and the stories of the sci-fi movies are just that: stories.