A couple years ago I came to the realization that robots will start to displace humans faster than we can create new jobs for humans. In fact, it may already be happening. This is a highly debated topic, so don’t take my word for it. If you remember I spoke of basic income when I said Uber and Lyft are playing for the long run when they can replace all the drivers with automated cars. Well this article is going to be scary because the future often is, but hopefully you will be enlightened. Rise of the Robots is a book about how robots will replace us at such a rate that we will have to rethink our relationship with work. Many manufacturing jobs have been eliminated by robots, but so many other jobs we once considered safe are going away as well.
Articles are already being written by robots. One company, Quill provides services to automate articles. It can easily write articles about sports, take in information to make reports, and likely is writing things we already read, but believe are written by a human. One example would be a report for an earthquake. A human would need to be present to feel the earthquake, wake up, look up details, and then quickly publish something. A computer can always be tracking the earth’s vibrations and once a threshold is passed it can submit an article with graphs and be the first one to report it.
You may have heard that the majority of stock transactions are performed by high frequency traders. These are algorithms programmed to profit by making split second decisions. Fractions of a second are so valuable that the firms have tried to get as close to the exchanges as possible. The algorithms compete with each other and even try to deceive each other to the point where what they are doing is incomprehensible to humans.
Fewer lawyers are needed and now nobody needs to search through boxes of documents because a computer can figure out which documents are relevant. Even handwritten documents can be easily scanned and their text converted so the machines can read it.
Doctors are extremely specialized and can take over a decade to start practicing. Machines are already better at reading some charts than humans and can sift through tons of data to come up with diagnoses. Imagine when we all have heart monitors, perspiration meters, and our food and air intake is monitored. We can’t expect a doctor to look through all that data unless she had a ton of time. However, an algorithm can constantly monitor you and come up with predictions to help you stay healthy.
Translation software is getting so good. You could use Google translate and have a rough conversation with so many people that don’t know your language nor you theirs. I even read you can buy headphones that provide instant translation.
Every task we are completing on our computer is likely being recorded and is now a step closer to replacing us. Every time a machine learns it can transmit the information throughout the system and now all the machines know it. Humans don’t have this ability, even Neo took a bit of time to download a skill.
What I think will happen
I think these changes are already about but are so slow that we aren’t spending much time discussing or worrying about it now. The wages have been stagnant for many years even though companies have been making record profits because the gains are going to the owners. In a recession, people are laid off and then don’t need to be replaced as new technology steps in. In fact, people are a much greater liability. We can get hurt, we want healthcare and retirement benefits, we could say something bad that goes viral and damages the company. So why would they hire you or me when they could get a robot to work nonstop at a low cost. So either the government will need to make laws which help everyone or risk society fragmenting into the haves and have-nots. The problem is that the haves will no longer need the have-nots because robots will be able to do most of the tasks.
I don’t know how humanity will react so such quick changes. I think there will be lots of political gridlock as unemployment rises and countries all over the world will have to take on experiments to see what may work. In fact, I find this problem to be a serious problem worth our time to consider and maybe one day I’ll be a politician fighting for humanity over the rise of the robots.