As a self-professed sci-fi fan boy and science enthusiast, I freely admit to enjoying the “Terminator” series starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, especially the 2003 production, “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” with Kristanna Loken as the stunningly lovely but lethal T-X cybernetic warrior from a post-apocalyptic future, bent on the elimination of the Human Resistance and ultimately all humans.
Under the nefarious rule of Skynet, a highly advanced artificial intelligence global neural network, much fun and mayhem ensues.
Although the series was purely fictional and the plotline a bit over-the-top, a future in which human workers are replaced by machines is about to become a reality.
According to Gizmodo, a design, technology, science and science fiction website, robots are already replacing human workers at an alarming rate in manufacturing and a variety of other industries.
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance, an insurance firm in Japan, recently terminated 34 employees and replaced them with an artificial intelligence system that can calculate payouts to policyholders, which the company believes will increase productivity by 30 percent and see a return on its investment in less than two years.
The system is based on IBM’s Watson Explorer, which, according to the tech firm, possesses “cognitive technology that can think like a human,” enabling it to interpret data, text, images, audio and video faster and more accurately than a human staffer could.
Experts expect that each additional robot in the U.S. economy reduces employment by 5.6 workers, and every robot that is added to the workforce per 1,000 human workers causes wages to drop, based on conclusions reached by Boston University’s Pascual Restrepo, who published his findings at the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Robots are having a transformative effect on the labor market in the U.S. and elsewhere, the published report stated, and it’s a trend that’s likely to continue, driving future unemployment while greatly increasing the need for retraining workers.
According to an analysis by the International Data Corporation, virtually no job is safe, especially with the advent of artificial intelligence, which will quadruple the number of AI robots by 2025 and may eliminate up to 3.4 million jobs in the U.S. alone.
Some researchers estimated that up to 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are “at risk” of being automated in the next 25 years. The impact will likely be even more severe in the developing world where millions lack the means to a modern education.
A Pew Research Center 2014 survey noted that the vast majority of respondents anticipate that robotics and artificial intelligence will permeate wide segments of daily life by the end of the next decade, resulting in huge implications for a range of industries such as health care, transport and logistics, medicine, surveillance, customer service, and home maintenance, to name a few.
A significant number of both blue- and white-collar workers would be displaced, say experts. The result is a mass of people who are effectively unemployable, and could theoretically produce breakdowns in the social order.
Other computer scientists believe that technology will not displace more jobs than it creates, while acknowledging that many occupations currently performed by humans will be substantially taken over by AI robots. They have faith that human ingenuity will prevail despite new “intelligent” technologies, just as humans have been doing since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.
Computer scientist and economist JP Rangaswami offered a number of reasons for his belief that automation will not be a net displacer of jobs, driven primarily by a revolution in education.
He claimed that the very nature of work in the coming decades will change radically — but positively — in economies that have chosen to invest in education and related infrastructure, adding that for many classes of jobs, robots will continue to be poor labor substitutes.
Nevertheless, AI robots will make momentous impacts to the workforce as we now know it, most people acknowledge.
There have recently been a number of voices championing the concept of a Universal Basic Income as a response to a future era when robots hold most of the jobs previously held by humans.
The idea of universal basic income is a policy in which all citizens of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution in lieu of their labor.
But how does universal basic income actually work? Particularly in the distant future, when presumably robots perform most if not all tasks, i.e. similar to the now defunct animated series, The Jetsons, that aired in the early 60s.
Many think that as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs, we’re going to see some version of universal basic income deployed.
But I think the implications of the idea contains complexities associated with its rollout that remain unanswered — such as where is the additional money coming from to pay citizens who are no longer employed? Taxes?
Governments only have the money it taxes from workers, corporate officers and from companies. If AI robots have taken over all the work, then no one is paying payroll taxes since those who are unemployed won’t be earning a paycheck.
Robots don’t have money, so taxing corporations that own the robots isn’t possible if consumers have no funds to pay for the services and products they provide.
Since consumers have no money — because they aren’t working anymore — how will we allocate the products of production?
Difficult questions for a brave new world, that I for one am not smart enough to figure out.
But at least no robot can take over my job as a newspaper reporter. Or can they?