The human-machine relationship may seem fraught with rumors of job displacement, but when you consider the facts, you quickly see the potential for a powerful cooperative relationship in the workplace between employees and AI assistants.
Research on the economic impact of AI is dispelling society’s widespread impression of the technology as a job-killer. Here’s the truth: fewer than 5% of jobs could be automated using current technology. Despite rumors that robots will “take over the world,” Yasmeen Ahmad writes, “it will be a significant length of time before machines are versatile enough to do the breadth of tasks that humans can.” “Our focus,” he continues, “is thus on augmentation — machines and humans working collaboratively.”
The question, then, becomes this: in the modern workplace, how will man and machine manage to coexist? Here are just a few of the reasons they’re destined to be collaborators, not competitors:
1. Robots Are Smart, But So Are Humans
AI technology might be getting more advanced every day, but automation is still constrained by what economists refer to as Polanyi’s paradox. This term refers to the complications that arise when humans try to automate activities that we ourselves don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind — like creating art, for example.
So although systems are becoming increasingly automated, that doesn’t mean they’re making their human counterparts superfluous in the workplace. AIs often perform basic physical processes more consistently and accurately than humans, but when it comes to tasks that require creativity, it’s still far, far better to have a human on hand.
That’s not to say AIs are incapable of displaying some sense of creativity — Albert™ , for instance, displays quite human-like cunning in the way he identifies and targets consumer segments with exactly the right creative content. But without someone on hand to direct him, not to mention feed him the creative content he’ll need to target these consumers in the first place, the AI won’t be capable of achieving real success. That brings us to point #2.
2. We’ll Have A Whole New Work Environment
Having more advanced machinery in the workplace isn’t going to make human work obsolete: quite the opposite, in fact. While some low-level jobs will be disappear due to automation, many more will be redefined and augmented. As the global economy changes, so does the modern workplace, and as we create technology that never existed before, jobs that didn’t exist before crop up with them. AI isn’t a threat to the job market as we know it: it’s simply making way for a new era of industrial revolution.
3. The More We Collaborate, The More We Accomplish
Robots aren’t going to be a tool that replaces people — rather, they’re going to be a means through which people can focus on more meaningful work. Already there are plenty of systems in place that allow machines to do the busy work that you hate, leaving you free to focus on the bigger picture. The more we invest in AI technology and advanced automation, the more data entry, basic analysis, and other tedious busywork can be completed by our computerized friends.
In the words of Universal Robots president Jürgen von Hollen, “We believe that people have their strengths, and so do robots. If you combine the two sides, one plus one doesn’t equal two, but rather three. The robot as a tool and collaborating with people — what you get is a completely new working environment.”
With all that in mind, it should be much easier to imagine how humans and AIs will one day work in tandem. After all, advanced AIs like Albert aren’t meant to steal your job from under you; rather, they are designed to make your work easier, more efficient, and ultimately more meaningful. So no need to fear the robot revolution. Moving forward, a healthy degree of cooperation and understanding will spell success for all parties involved.