Can AI Replace My Job?
By Henry Silva, AI developer
The short answer is yes. But the long one is a bit more complicated.
Computer systems have been growing in a strong and steady pace since their invention in the early 1900s. Today, many of the core elements of our society are run by AI algorithms, which provide instructions to make our devices accomplish certain tasks. Take the way loans are currently being lent in the US for example. Until recently, the eligibility of people that applied for loans, e.g. a home or car loan, was defined by a banker, who would meet the person and decide if that person is eligible based on the conversation. But today, things are very different. Most of the loans are submitted online and their eligibility is defined by AI algorithms, who make their decisions based on all the information available on the applicant, information which sometimes can be highly biased.
A 2019 report from the Brooking’s Institute found that 47% of Latino or Hispanic workers were in jobs that could be partially or entirely automated, followed by American Indians at 45%, Black workers at 44%, white workers at 40%, and Asian Americans at 39%.
Automation will continue to expand into the future, and the consequences will affect us all. Every day, new startups and companies are working hard to provide effective and affordable AI-driven vehicles. Companies such as Embark — a self-driving truck company created by 23-year-old robotics expert Alex Rodrigues — are already making astonishing progress in transforming the transportation industry into a non-human endeavor, one soon to be dominated by intelligent machines. These AI algorithms don’t need to be perfect; they just need to be better than us. And making that happen can be easier than you might think.
Drivers in the United States alone are responsible for more than 30,000 deaths per year, a number that doesn’t include the thousands of people who survive car accidents with life-altering injuries. If AI can deliver safer results than the average human driver, people working in all sections of the transportation industry — from Uber drivers to heavy machinery operators — will end up losing their jobs. The transportation industry employs more than thirteen million people in the U.S., people who are quickly losing their jobs with the rise of AI.
Lower-skilled jobs are not the only ones endangered by AI. Researchers are working daily to think about new and clever ways to train machine learning algorithms to perform more high-skill jobs, like practicing law and medicine, and even programming. The good news is that industry leaders, community leaders and elected officials are having conversations about the potential impact of AI and how we can mitigate job loss. More to come.
So, will AI be the end of our civilization as we know it? It might, which is exactly why we need to take action and spread information about the power of AI algorithms as a whole. Automation is inevitable, but it is up to us to make this transition as safe and as beneficial as possible, especially for the unrepresented groups that compose the vast majority of people working on jobs that are being threatened by AI. For some countries, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as national safeguards and robust welfare programs can help those affected by technological unemployment find their footing. But it remains to be seen how the United States will handle this drastic change.