AI and I: Will I be replaced?

Being the current, hip, cool and totally-aware-of-current-affairs kind of guy I am, I’ve taken a keen interest in the Zuckerberg/Musk feud that’s overhauled the news worldwide recently. For those unaware of what’s going on, there’s been high-profile verbal ‘shots fired’ regarding Artificial Intelligence, or AI.

While Elon Musk (the man behind PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX to name but a few) has a history of voicing concerns over AI and what could happen if we lose control of it, Mark Zuckerberg (creator of Facebook, leading the world’s biggest social media conglomerate) has other ideas. AI is regarded by Zuckerberg as innocuous, harmless and easily contained with minimal risk for future use. This has lead to remarks about each others knowledge and standpoints regarding AI.

Regardless of who I agree with, I’m not here to take sides on the debate. Today, I want to speak about one concern and one concern alone: whether AI is a threat to work.

Artificial Intelligence: Friend, Foe, Future

AI: Friend or Foe?

Right off the bat, some things are obvious: technology puts people out of work, but equally puts opens new opportunities for people to get into work. When a manufacturing line never gets ill, never makes mistakes and doesn’t require a lunch break, it’s a hard offer to turn down compared to humans who are, well, human. However, your PC won’t operate itself and your car won’t drive you home from work for you. Roles all over the world can only be filled with human input and thought processes.

However.

Many say it’s only a question of time. Cutting-edge technology is costly. However in time, tech become less cutting-edge and more commonplace. As technology gets cheaper and AI gets smarter, workplaces gets easier and cost-effective to replace from the bottom tier up. Eventually, AI will be sharp enough to handle things like complex administration, construction and distribution with no margin of error.

As these roles become filled with automated programs and self-sustaining software that can think for itself, the fear of a ‘useless class’ comes creeping in. AI will phase your role out unless you have high end skills. In a downward trend, the unemployed could become the unemployable.

So, what makes us better than AI?

Despite this, there’s a major area that AI falls short on – being human. As cheesy, corny, and cliché it sounds, being human is more complex than we give it credit. Empathy, understanding of others and the ability to decode ideas that people have trouble putting into a formulaic manner are all things that AIs are still catching up with.

No machine has passed the Turing test (a test of how ‘real’ an AI is, to the point of being indistinguishable from a human mind) on a widely agreed scale. We’ve all spoken to machines over the phone. No matter how genuine the voice sounds, it doesn’t match up. Speaking to someone on the other end of the phone who understands and infers your issues requires that mutual understanding that a machine lacks.

We’re versatile too. We draw from our resources and experience, we can handle unexpected changes, multitask and prioritise tasks. It’s true, automation exists that can do the same, but we do it cheaper and with care. Another thing that AI can’t do is enjoy accomplishments, or enjoy anything at all. If you can’t enjoy work how can you do it with passion?

We have work friends, the ‘human touch’, we have passion and so much more. We have innate, natural talents and affinities that AI still can’t touch. In fact, I recently wrote another blog referring to our ‘soft skills’ that make us relatable, real and well-rounded. Should we fear for our jobs? I’m no expert, but my gut says probably not… yet. As awesome (yet terrifying) as it sounds, I doubt I’ll be interviewing any androids anytime soon.

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Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg: is AI practical or problematic?

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