Too Much Smart Talk On A.I.

Martin Romjue
Posted on July 31, 2017
(Creative Commons image by geralt)

(Creative Commons image by geralt)

Each year seems to bring a topic alarming the industry with related forecasts of bad endings. In 2015, it was driverless cars. In 2016, the supremacy of TNCs. This year: AI (artificial intelligence).

I’ve been to three conferences so far this year that included the subject of AI, which is applying technology to replace human tasks in faster ways. In a positive way, the state of the industry presentation at the March LCT Show touched upon a direct benefit to operators: Bot and voice activated technology that can handle call center, service desk, and web FAQ functions. Likewise, Leadership Summit speaker Brian Solis talked about AI’s disruptive role, such as apps and the advent of driverless vehicles.

But during a digital media conference I attended in April, a speaker warned 6% of jobs will be lost to AI by 2021; 47% by 2037; and 95% of machines will write better than humans. Could AI replace writers, editors, and marketers, the speaker asked? I wondered if it would happen after I retire.

What’s Next?
2015 - Driverless Cars
2016 - TNC Supremacy
2017 - Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Mad Info
Media coverage brings such doomsday scenarios: One third of men 25-54 will be unemployed! 45% of jobs to be automated! 30 million unemployed drivers with nowhere to go! 75% unemployment by 2100! What will people do? How will they earn a living? Can everyone earn money polishing robots? (Wait, no, they’ll polish each other). We need a national guaranteed income!

Oh, please sheeple media, calm down already. I’ve recently read several articles on AI explaining how it’s an innovative tool that creates new jobs and makes our lives easier. I can’t think of anyone now who wants a harder life.

AI Benefits
• Call Center
• Service Desk
• Web FAQ

More Jobs
In several industries, physical labor jobs have yielded to more digitally-driven jobs. A commentary in the May 14 Wall Street Journal by two economic academics, Bret Swanson and Michael Mandel, points out how e-commerce has created 397,000 jobs since December 2007, making up for the 76,000 jobs lost at stores. Hydraulic fracking that spurred the shale oil and gas boom — at least one cylinder pulling the U.S. out of the Great Recession — has boosted oil-and-gas work hours by 17% during the last 10 years.

Tech think tanker Robert D. Aktinson in the April 17 issue of National Review cites studies showing how fewer than 5% of jobs can be fully automated, while AI will eliminate only 1.25% of jobs in 15 major developed and emerging companies by 2020. Only 10% of jobs across 702 different occupations are actually at risk of automation. More than offsetting such small losses are the billions of dollars saved, new job roles yet to be created, and increases in economic productivity thanks to AI and robotics. In my case, I wouldn’t mind having a bot edit rote press releases and upload content to our websites, thereby freeing me up to write more interesting articles, create videos, and tour companies.

Really? AI Job Loss Forecast
6% by 2021
47% by 2037

Losses < Gains
Now, some jobs and roles will be lost forever. On May 11, 1997, chess champion Gary Kasparov was defeated by an IBM supercomputer, Deep Blue. Writing in the WSJ in April, Kasparov admitted he had a hard time with the machine-beat-man irrelevancy. But he sums it up best: “Waxing nostalgic about jobs lost to technology is little better than complaining that antibiotics put too many gravediggers out of work.” Civilization advances non-stop. No one would want to bring back all the jobs that collectively provided the brainpower and service levels of the smartphone now in about every purse and pair of pants. Kasparov points out how jobs such as drone pilot, social media manager, and 3-D print engineer did not exist 20 years ago.

Intelligent machines free us from menial physical and mental labor, he writes, thereby “elevating our mental lives toward creativity, curiosity, beauty, and joy.” I can think of worse ways to spend one’s time.

Most of us will keep working. For now, mass driverless cars seem further off than first predicted, maybe 2030 instead of 2022. Uber has hit some skids, to say the least. The limousine industry still supports our LCT events and magazines, print and digital. Technology will sort out all the progress and keep more people busy.

As we size up how AI will change our business lives, we’ll still need the informed intelligence and judgment of the human mind. That human mind attached to a soul brings infinite potential for creativity and achievement, one unique person at a time. I’m not betting techies ever find an AI invention replacing God.

Related Topics: artificial intelligence, industry trends, Information Technology, innovation, LCT editor, Martin Romjue, research and trends

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