Artificial Intelligence is Coming. Is Your Job Safe?

“First they came for our jobs. Then they came for our land. Now they’re here for us.”

If we’re to believe what science fiction has told us for decades, the above statement won’t come as a surprise to you. Even before your day-to-day technological companions were invented, notable fiction was calling for sentient computers to take over the planet.

Look no further than 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. We live in a world where this is now more of a reality than ever before, especially with artificial intelligence on the forefront of everyone’s minds. AI is supposed to make our lives easier. It’s supposed to improve us as a species. It’s supposed to do a lot of things, yet, as fiction has told us time and time again, the way things are designed to happen, and the way they turn out, are often very different.

It is only recently though that this truth has come to unfold in reality. The AI we dreamed of is upon us, and though it’s facilitated many positive paradigm shifts, we’re waking up to realization that our jobs may be in jeopardy. But which professions are most in danger of being replaced by AI tomorrow? Let’s find out.

DRIVERS

Whether you’re a taxi driver, a transit operator or a big-rig trucker, you’ve got to be sweating for your job security. There’s perhaps no other field of AI that gets more publicity these days than the autonomous car. At CES 2018, the industry conference for consumer tech, Ford highlighted their partnership with Dominos for autonomous pizza deliveries, and Toyota with Pizza Hut. We’re just glad the future hasn’t lost sight of how important pizza is to humankind. With Lyft now also partnering with the innovative tech giant, Aptiv it’s only a matter of time before our roads are populated with driverless cars that come when we call them and take us where we’ve requested. Until they change their minds and program new destinations in, of course.

SURGEONS

How long do we have until a quick scan from a computer can diagnose an exact medical condition, and a robot can perform surgery more accurately and proficiently than their human counterpart? The incentive to increase the efficacy of lifesaving procedures warrants that the answer is probably not very long at all. By 2020, surgical robotics sales are expected to almost double to $6.4 billion. And it’s heavyweights like Google that are leading the charge, partnering with Johnson&Johnson to create a new surgical robot system this year. Who’s to say that an assembly line approach to our hospital experience (which already exists for car manufacturing) doesn’t also meet our needs for the future? Lay down and enjoy the ride.

TEACHERS

It takes years of study for a human to qualify to teach kids. How long would it take a machine? Machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. Computers can download information at a fraction of the pace it takes us homo sapiens. According to SAS, a leader in analytics, computers can use massive data overloads to discern patterns in the data, adjusting their outputs accordingly to reflect these truths. The more information they get, the “smarter” they get. And with enough patterns identified, it can move on to making predictions. So as far as educating is concerned, they’ll have the knowledge and the knowhow to teach us the ways of the world. Just. Like. That.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Some professions just might be a bit more “future proof” than others. Are you safe?

WRITERS

Admittedly, I may be a little biased here, considering I make a living on the written word. But let’s dissect the writing profession as a whole, whether you’re a novelist, blogger, journalist or screenwriter. Given that writing is very subjective, and very artistic, it’s intrinsically more difficult for artificial intelligence to replicate. In comparison to the drivers that go from A to B, doctors that diagnose and treat, and teachers that relay fact (simplifications, yes), writers choose what they elaborate on. They can proceed in one of an infinite number of directions, not necessarily according to any rules. Case in point, the short film It’s No Game. A completely unintelligible film, all of the Hoff’s dialogue in it was written by an AI called Benjamin. Much like the Hoff’s acting chops, AI still has a long way to go.

DESIGNERS & ARTISTS

The trend here is definitely that artificial intelligence will have a tough time with understanding and replicating implicit expression. So professionals such as graphic designers, painters and even clothing designers (a relief to us on this site) should be safe if we stick with the idea that it’s form and not function that automation will struggle with. A website or a painting needs a certain look, a certain artistic flair, whereas a building or product, such as a smartphone, ultimately just needs to exist. So, you artists can keep on creating while we continue to create AI.

Now, could all of the aforementioned be wrong? Obviously, while any of these professions could be fully automated in the future, their demise ranking is still largely speculation. So what do you think – are these predictions too farfetched? Or will future jobs be more deeply infiltrated by artificial intelligence than this? Sound off in the comments below.

Until then, I’m going for a drive… Siri, start up the car. Sorry, Liam, I’m afraid I don’t understand. Never mind.

Words by Liam Fearnley

Illustration by Robert John Paterson

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