Will robots replace human workers? Musk thinks humans are "underrated"
As robots come to take over many aspects of manual labor, many start worrying that human workers are a thing of the past. But we might be too quick to write human employees off just yet.
Artificial intelligence is already at the forefront of medical and climate research and is expected to become a part of our daily lives by 2025. A glimpse of it can be seen in things as trivial as cleaning robots. But what does such an automated future hold for humans?
The future of work: humans vs. AI
On the one hand, there is no argument that artificial intelligence designed to replicate human intelligence in labor can be a positive development. It can take over potentially life-threatening tasks or jobs that can leave humans with severe health issues. On a more general level, it can simplify a variety of processes for companies and enhance the user experience by processing vast amounts of data and executing sophisticated algorithms efficiently.
“When it comes to checking work, spotting problems, and providing potential solutions, the machines win hands down,” recent research from Tradeshift suggests.
On the other hand, AI lacks the soft skills to work in jobs that require critical thinking and creative approaches. Programming such skills is close to impossible since any program requires a full understanding of the sequence of steps necessary to perform a task. Since we ourselves lack full knowledge of how soft skills are formed (and most are governed by intuition,) we are currently incapable of teaching them to a robot.
So it seems like the most probable future is the one where humans train robots in order for AI to help humans rather than replace them. There is little room for severe competition in this symbiotic relationship, and companies that favor one over the other might encounter challenges along the way.
One example of this is Tesla. Following the news that Tesla Model 3 missed its quarterly production target, Musk admitted that the overly-technical production process and excessive automation were to blame. Musk furtherly elaborated that too many robots were involved in Tesla’s auto factory.
Prior to this, Musk suggested that relying on robots for efficient vehicle production gives Tesla a crucial advantage over its competitors. Yet, such an over-dependence prevented the company from producing more Tesla 3s.
However, even if we imagine that robots can be trained to be as capable as humans in soft and hard skills, the implementation of AI across sectors remains a serious challenge. Most companies lack computational infrastructure and the expertise to implement AI successfully.
“The greatest misconception is unfortunately that ‘we are going to get it right.’ AI is not easy to implement. Most enterprises who attempt it are so lured by the promise of AI that they rush past how littered the landscape is with projects that have failed. According to Gartner, only 53% of projects make it to production. In fact, a full 85% of AI projects fail to meet their initial business goals,” Jags Kandasamy, the CEO and Co-founder of Latent AI, told Cybernews.
Replaced employees or replaced humans?
If robots aren’t going to replace humans in jobs, then perhaps they will merge to create something completely different – an augmented human?
Human enhancement is a process of implementing technology to modify human traits or abilities. Today, it’s mostly limited to plastic surgery and drugs used to improve athletic performance (such as doping.)
In the future, however, humans will be able to connect their brains to online networks, as well as make use of genetic engineering and 3D bioprinting. This then leads to a highly-debated ethical question – what does it mean to be human?
Recent research by Pew Research Center shows that Americans are very cautious about the possibilities that come with human enhancement. As such, the majority think that brain chips implanted to quickly and accurately process information would be a bad idea for society.
“It’s just not normal. It’s removing the human race from doing the things that we should be doing. It’s scary because I’ve read from scientists that in the near future, robots can end up making decisions that we have no control over. I don’t like it at all,” commented one of the respondents.
However, the more familiar use of AI was generally considered by surveyed Americans to be a good idea, including the use of facial recognition by police and computer algorithms by social media companies.
“Fundamentally, caution runs through public views of artificial intelligence (AI) and human enhancement applications, often centered around concerns about autonomy, unintended consequences and the amount of change these developments might mean for humans and society,” the research explains.
The emergence and the widespread use of AI for the purpose of human enhancement will require strict regulations and higher standards for implementation. Likely, the existing regulatory framework will need to be significantly revised to account for this new, more sensitive technology.
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