Robots and artificial intelligence are about to change our conception of work
According to a recent Oxford university study, 47% of today’s jobs in the USA will be done by computers and robots in 2035. If this prediction is accurate, it could be seen as a huge threat for employment. Is our society ready to face this incoming earthquake?
The day a robot will steal my job
In his contribution, Désiré Bruckmann wondered if robots might be the future of humanity (article in French) and about the place they should occupy in our lives. But what if their destiny is to replace us in our jobs? Indeed, progress of artificial intelligence, computers, and robotics allows machines to be as efficient (when it’s not more!) as humans in an increasing number of tasks. It already begun in the industry since the beginning of the 21st century, in particular in the automobile industry, where robotic arms perfectly realize complex activities like welding a car. This trend seems to be confirmed in this sector and will be extended to others like high technologies: the most relevant example is Foxconn, the famous subcontractor of Apple planning to replace one million of its 1.3 million employees by robots! Advantages are obvious: none employees to pay for a work a robot is able to do faster, none loss of productivity because of health problems, robots never protest…
And this evolution will not only concern factories: from “easy” task as supermarket’s cashier to more intellectual jobs as financial analyst, architect, lawyer or travel agent… most of the professions could be touched. There is another example with building jobs which will be in competition with three dimensional printers which are already able to build entire houses.
But everything isn’t lost! A plenty of jobs seem not ready to be victims of the robotization. Indeed, during the “Amazon Picking Challenge” organized at the international Conference in Robotics and Automation, none of the challengers achieved to impress the jury. The competition consisted in simulating the work of ranging an Amazon’s warehouse, but done by robots. Some of them cost more than 500 000$, but it seemed that it was not enough… the winner only picked ten items in twenty minutes and many of the others were not able to take a single item!
The main difficulty for them was to recognize items and to organize the navigation in the warehouse in the most efficient way. It’s a proof that some tasks are still done better and faster by a human hand, but for how long?
We have to change our vision of work
Martin Ford, author of the book “Rise of the robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future” sees hope for society if it can adapt its political system to technology that will automate most routine tasks. Indeed, in an interview given for the San Jose Mercury News, he declared that “we will get the point where there won’t be enough jobs for most people”, in particular for average people. So politicians have to think about that today, to avoid a crisis created by the loss of income, which will be followed by a loss of consummation, a deflationary spiral, and finally a financial crisis.
We also might have to reconsider our conception of work. The situation we are about to face will force us to accept more flexibility: the uberization of some tasks is the first visible step of this “exponential” movement described by the entrepreneur Peter Diamandis as the 6 “D’s”: digital, dematerialized, deceptive, disruptive, demonitized, democratic.
Explanation: It is the model popularized by new companies such as Uber, which offers a platform to its members, to meet supply and demand of services created by average citizens. The number of people who choose to live like this is constantly growing, but the main problem is still the precariousness of this kind of jobs. Moreover, we can’t say if the jobs created by the new economy will be enough to cover those which will disappear because of the progress of machines.
Etudiant en M2 Droit de l’Economie Numérique à l’Université de Strasbourg.
Passionné par les nouvelles technologies et les problématiques qu’elles engendrent, notamment celles touchant à la propriété intellectuelle et aux données personnelles. Je porte également un vif intérêt à l’actualité web et vidéoludique.
Curieux de tout, je m’intéresse à l’art sous toutes ses formes et pratique la photographie en amateur.