Science, Social Issue

Automation and AI: The paradox (Part 1)

The termsArtificial Intelligence’ and Automation’ are often used interchangeably. To start from the basic, there are a majority of people who feel that both the terms are one and the same. However, the reality is quite different.

The TL;DR explanation goes something like this:

Automation is software that follows pre-programmed ‘rules’.

Artificial intelligence is designed to stimulate human thinking. 

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There is a huge debate which has been going in the job market whether or not the human jobs in some sector will vanish and become extinct. And if the answer is Yes, how fast will the extinction take place? and will it lead to rise in crimes? Well after studying some of the detailed reports which are published by various companies such as McKinsey & Company, Deloitte, JP Morgan etc., the answer to the frequently asked above questions is both YES as well as NO.

I still remember when we used to get questions on our view on whether science and technology is a boon or a bane? The answer to any extent was YES. Thanks to the schooling days when we were far away from various publications and were not aware of certain terms, all the answers were based on some discussion that we heard from our parents or some other relatives. To be honest, even they seem to be quite unaware of the facts.

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The first stage Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the USA from 1760 to somewhere between the 1840’s. The major event which took place during that point of time were as follows:

  • Population shift: moving from rural agriculture to work in factories in cities. 
  • Mass production of goods, increase in efficiency and also decrease in the price of goods. 
  • Rapid industrialization had a cost in the increase in pollution and poor working conditions for labor. 

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Industrial Revolution also led to many inventions and discoveries which not only helped businesses and industries all around the world but also led to rise in standard of living. But why is Industrial Revolution important in this blog? Well the answer is the same as people who are thinking that Automation and AI will lead to loss in jobs across the sectors and verticals of businesses. During Industrial Revolution there was a major shift which took place from traditional agriculture sector to industries in cities. People even protested in some parts of both the countries with growing tension of inadequate amount of production of food-grains. Well the reality was quite opposite, there were people who preferred working in factories but because of machine age, there were some inventions which helped farmers to produce food-grains in a better way and also helped them to get better price and also led to wide-spread of the produced to people living in the interior regions.

The same logic can be applied in here, some of the jobs which are estimated to have been ‘disappearing’ or are on the verge of ‘extinction’ aren’t actually getting lost but are done by machines instead. Some years back, as per the study conducted by The Oxford University made a startling revelation, according to the study more than 47% of the jobs were under risk of job loss in the coming 20 years because of advances in AI and Automation. The Automation ‘paradox’ is neither entirely scary nor the truth. There were questions being raised with the methodology which was used in this study and also in the amount of detailed report study which some people missed. In the report it also mentioned that most of the “… high risk jobs will be automated”.

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The same logic can be applied in second stage of Industrial Revolution where more ‘mechanical’ slaves were controlled by humans. The mechanical slaves here can be termed in today’s language as machines which automated some of the processes. It lead to better safety and security of the human’s, mass production as well as new jobs.

Taking a classic case of 1990’s “phone companies panic mode” when voice recognition technology improved, phone company’s operators thought that their jobs were in danger. Whereas in reality, this was not what happened. Another real life scenario will be when banks launched ATM, bankers thought that their jobs were in danger and there were protest that were held at various banks across the globe. In reality, bankers no longer had to work for long hours and the jobs of cashiers were brought down BUT the employee’s who were in the client facing services and whose job were simplified by ATM’s (1980’s) had to re-skill themselves and were involved in  the selling of financial products. This indeed brought more profitability to the banks and led to job creations. There were companies which were benefited because of the involvement of third-party training providers and also some  jobs were outsourced.

Automation and rise in AI has led to job loss in some sense but has also led to rise in jobs in some other ways. As explained by David Autor, Economist, MIT, “Let’s say its year 1900 and there are around 40% of total population who is into agriculture, there were estimates that 100 years from now only 2% of the total population will be in agriculture. The question is what will other 38% do, now since we know the answer would be SEO, SEM, Data Scientist etc. this was never heard about terms during that point of time”. Taking the same case we exactly don’t know what kind of jobs will people be doing 50 years from now, there might be people who might be doing jobs such as crypto bankers, driver data setters, outer-space travelling agencies etc.

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But exactly that’s not even the case, because of growing driver-less technology, there are cabbies and logistics operators who fear that millions of jobs are at stake, that is the reality. Drivers aren’t aware or are compatible of some of the jobs and it will take months and even in some cases years to teach or re-skill them in something new. There are also some positive as well as some negative elements which is associated with rising AI and Automation technology. Government needs to interfere and bring in new programs or schemes which will help people in some jobs who are on the verge of losing jobs because of Automation. This will not only create an equilibrium but also will lead to job security in people’s mind. Kids needs to be taught how important it is to have some additional skills developed in order to have job security. I won’t be amazed if my kid will want to become a scientist as well as engineer, this might sound very vague now but it might be even a reality 20 years hence. The only thing that can be concluded as of now is that future is very competitive not only within us but also with the rise of AI and Automation and we need to be ready for it.

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Thank-You for reading. 

Image Source: Google Images.

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