Will computer technology cost workers their jobs? | Opinion

Will computer technology cost workers their jobs? | Opinion

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The Arnold Schwarzenegger film, The Terminator, is about “a world where an artificially intelligent defense network known as Skynet has become self-aware and has conquered humanity,” according to the entertainment journal, Variety. The film was made 40 years ago in 1984 when Artificial Intelligence [AI] was fantasy, at best. Get ready to encounter “real life” AI in the brave new world in which we live.

Actually, the concept of machines that “think for themselves” dates back to 1956 when a group of AI thinkers got together at Dartmouth College. According to the website Linqto, “they dreamed of machines that could solve complex problems, understand natural language, and even mimic human creativity.. In simple terms, artificial intelligence is a way for computers to mimic human thinking. It uses certain rules, known as algorithms, which allow the computer to learn from data, a process known as machine learning. This way, the computer can do things usually done by humans like recognizing faces or suggesting songs you might like. By using a lot of data and spotting patterns in it, these computers can get really good at these tasks.”  

Forbes Magazine says that we are in the early days of Artificial Intelligence with the initial goal of replacing “dangerous and repetitive work. That frees up human workers to do work which offers more ability for creative thinking, which is likely to be more fulfilling. AI technology is also going to allow for the invention and many aids which will help workers be more efficient in the work that they do. All in all, we believe that AI is a positive for the human workforce in the long run, but that’s not to say there won’t be some growing pains in between.”

However, there is a dark side to AI. For one thing, it takes away jobs for humans, notes the MindSpark website, pointing out that in addition to “jobs being replaced by automation [it creates] an economic inflation that benefits the creators of AI and automation but not the employees AI and automation replaces.”

Indeed, workers are worried about their jobs but not all of them. According to the Pew Research Center, “in our analysis, jobs are considered more exposed to artificial intelligence if AI can either perform their most important activities entirely or help with them… Because AI could be used either to replace or complement what workers do, it is not known exactly which or how many jobs are in peril.”

Rice University department of psychological sciences professor Fred Oswald says that “advances in AI are happening rapidly in the workplace, and many of their effects are uncertain. Will AI empower employees and organizations to be more effective? Or consistent with employee worries, will AI replace their jobs? We’re likely to see both. We’ll need more research to inform targeted AI-oriented investments in employee training, career development, mental health, and other interventions.”