How will artificial intelligence, AI, impact jobs?
Former Harvard president and leading economist Larry Summers predicts that one-third of men will be out of work by 2050. Finance guru Suze Orman says not to be surprised if we see 25 percent unemployment by 2030. And major research institutions predict anywhere from 14 percent to 50 percent unemployment.
Even if we take the most optimistic prediction, that’s huge. Fourteen percent job loss would have massive ramifications on the economy, the stock market, the housing market, and every facet of our lives. Heck, even half of the most optimistic prediction would be an enormous game-changer.
But could this really be possible? Or is everyone panicking about what will essentially be a shift in the types of jobs that people hold — reminiscent of our shift from farm to factory, and from factory to office — but not an actual net job loss?
To answer these questions, we talk to Darrell West, author of The Future of Work, about artificial intelligence, robots, and the future of jobs.
In order to lay the foundation for this podcast discussion, here are a few basic facts about AI.
#1: AI is already here. It’s not something that “will happen” in the future; it’s something that “is happening” in the present. However, we’re not seeing job loss in the present. Why not? We discuss this question in this podcast episode.
#2: AI is not the same thing as robots. A robot is a container, a vehicle. AI is the intelligence.
When people talk about a “robot revolution,” they’re creating a compelling, visual, alliterative headline. The reality is that we won’t be interfacing with physical robots, like the Jetsons. We’ll be interacting with software, like Siri and Alexa.
#3: There’s a huge difference between Artificial Narrow Intelligence, which is AI that can perform a specific task (like the Nest Thermostat) vs. Artificial General Intelligence, which is AI that’s broadly and generally as intelligent as a human. We’re likely to see Narrow AI, not General AI, in the coming decades.
#4: Intelligence and consciousness are not the same thing. We’re accustomed to thinking of these qualities as correlated, due to our interpretation of the animal kingdom.
For the sake of this conversation, let’s define consciousness as the capacity to feel joy and suffering. We often conflate intelligence with consciousness because a dog is more intelligent than a snail, and also, a dog may have a higher capacity for both joy and suffering than a snail.
That link is breaking. We are about to see the decoupling of intelligence and consciousness.
Of course, people wonder what might happen if AI becomes conscious, but that’s outside the scope of this podcast episode. This episode is about AI’s impact on jobs. And leads to the final point …
#5: Thinking on this is divided. Some economists predict that routine, entry-level jobs will suffer the brunt of the impact. As you’re about to hear in this podcast episode, others say that high-paying jobs may also be at risk.
What’s in store for AI and the future of jobs? Listen to this interview with Darrell West, author of The Future of Work, and leave a comment!
- The Future of Work, book by Darrell West
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- @paulapant on Instagram
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