Let’s face it, jobs have always been a necessary evil. A means to an end — unless you’re one of those people who has a career and loves what they do. Showoff.
Computer scientists, programmers, engineers, and all the other smart people on planet Earth have been working hard to ensure we don’t have to work hard anymore.
Over at Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow describes a study done by university economists who concluded these jobs ain’t coming back:
In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of “routine” jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment.
The study links the phenomenon of unemployment with automation — an obvious-seeming connection — by establishing a causal relationship that goes beyond mere correlation: people stop working because robots take their jobs. Robots don’t just co-occur with unemployment, they cause it.
The share of Americans working in routine jobs has fallen from 40.5% in 1979 to 31.2% in 2014, according to the paper. The federal government’s official measure of Americans age 16 and over who are working or seeking work has fallen from a recent high of 67.3% in 2000 to 62.7% in November 2016.
“Routine jobs are disappearing and more and more prime-age Americans aren’t working,” said Mr. Siu. “These things are two sides of the same coin.”
Last week the Guardian published an article by Justin McCurry on Japanese insurance firm Fukoku Mutual Life replacing 34 employees with IBM’s Watson Explorer AI:
A future in which human workers are replaced by machines is about to become a reality at an insurance firm in Japan, where more than 30 employees are being laid off and replaced with an artificial intelligence system that can calculate payouts to policyholders.
Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance believes it will increase productivity by 30% and see a return on its investment in less than two years. The firm said it would save about 140m yen (£1m) a year after the 200m yen (£1.4m) AI system is installed this month. Maintaining it will cost about 15m yen (£100k) a year.
Productivity, what’s that? Work extra hard so I can make the same salary and my boss can get a bigger bonus? Ha! Yeah right!
The problem with artificial intelligence and automation is that we’ve only solved half of the problem. We’ve figured out how to replace a human with a robot or a computer.
What we need to do now — what should have been done in tandem with the first part — is figure out a way to allow these redundant humans to stay employed through alternate means.
Some people say job automation and AI are necessitating a system like universal basic income while others said it’s not economically feasible.
I don’t know what the solution is, but we have to figure something out because shit is going to get real very soon.