Tag: machine

Losing Jobs to Robots: A Misconstrued Non-Issue

By Joshua D. Glawson | United States

“Technological Unemployment” was a term coined by economist John Maynard Keynes. It references jobs for people that machines replace, and is a type of structural unemployment. He was not the first to discuss the concept of lost labor due to machines, but he made it more popular by the 1930s. We see this continued sentiment with the progress of technology today. People in Neo-Luddite fashion scream, “Robots are taking our jobs,” or, “With more robots taking our jobs, what are we supposed to do?” At face value, it can be very scary the idea of being unemployed or a lost career that took years with plenty of personal investing.

Are people really going to lose their jobs? In short, yes. Yes, people will lose jobs and careers, with no return in certain fields. With software and technological advancements, there will be careers such as accountants, construction workers, stockers, and more that will have to find alternative fields of employment. This does not mean that other fields will not become available for these individuals.

In fact, with technological advancements, there have been a plethora of jobs and fields that have come into existence only because of these precise advancements. For example, the internet has led to the demise of many traditional advertising companies, but has opened serious career opportunities for social media and online advertisers. When the car was invented, it caused the fall of the horse and carriage industry, but allowed new careers in vehicle manufacturing, advertising, sales, mechanics, accessories, fuels, etc. Only a wistful dreamer would argue that in order to provide more jobs we should ride on horses as a means of transportation again.

Politicians are typically characterized as declaring, “We need more jobs!” Suffice to say, it is not their place to do so. It is also not a healthy economical role for governments to employ many people. Nevertheless, it appears as an easy way of winning votes when a politician tells citizens they will get them “free” things at the expense of others, or more jobs. The only real jobs created would be by government loosening its claws off the neck of a free market that it is crippling with regulations.

Perhaps, in order to simply “create more jobs,” the politician can propose policies that prevent technological advancements, and get rid of more than half of the machines currently used, such as bulldozers. That way, they can give everyone spoons, instead of machines and shovels, and create an entire network of frantic ditch diggers who only use spoons all for the sake of “creating jobs!”

When people protest that they have “a right to work,” this means they believe they have “the right to other people’s property.” A company is owned by an individual or group of individuals. They fronted the risks of creating the company, and they rightly redeem the rewards, losses, and other consequences of having their company. Just because they have a contractual agreement with certain people as the company being employers, this contract does not provide employees with ownership of the company or its property. This also entails the job itself, as it can be terminated by either party at any time, under most contracts. Some areas have created laws to attempt to say otherwise, yet this does not justify their thieving actions.

If the property belongs to the company, it is to the company’s discretion as to whether they would prefer people working for them or robots and software. As people demand more and more for their employment, such as wages, health, retirement, investments, vacation, etc., companies are irrefutably incentivized to go with lowest cost labor that provides the least amount of problems, i.e. robots, machines, and software.

This inevitable change is artificially influenced by increased costs and taxes, and as people require more this process is expedited. A prosperous outcome, for most, would be a laissez faire solution which allows these changes to occur naturally within the marketplace, expanding trade rather than filtering it. This free market would also allow employees to better compete against one another in order to get the job they so desired. It still would not change the fact that many people will lose jobs or careers to robots and software.

Some are calling on “taxing robots,” “Universal Basic Income,” or, “Basic Income,” but at a cost to whom? This cost is, again, to the creators and companies, who then pass the cost on to the market who pay more for the same products. It would also entail higher taxes for everyone, including the poor.

This, of course, should be a motivation to better market one’s self by learning more and expanding their own horizons as opposed to accepting mindless jobs that a robot could do in the near future. More complex jobs, like calculating as an accountant, will still be inevitably lost to software. Yet, there are other fields and companies that will choose to stay with people for a while, and the same goes with more menial jobs. This can be seen clearly with banks providing ATMs while maintaining in-house bankers. Many people prefer dealing with other people rather than with machines, especially as some software is still getting the bugs worked out.

In the long-term, the benefits of robots, machines, and software far outweigh the losses incurred. We have better healthcare, transportation, lower costs, better materials, a greater access to knowledge, and easier forms of communication. This list of benefits can go on continuously and yet we see more jobs available today than a thousand years ago. There are more jobs not because of governments, and not because of stifling regulations, but because of the technological advancements that humankind has created to best benefit us and the world, while also trading. People will continue losing jobs as the world progresses. People will, surely, find more jobs and opportunities as we progress!


The AI Apocalypse Is Here: And It’s Scarier Than You Thought

By Ryan Love | United States

My favorite film is Blade Runner directed by Ridley Scott. The film chronicles the story of Rick Deckard, a “Blade Runner,” or a special sort of hitman who kills Replicants, or AI robots, that do slave labor on off-planet colonies who somehow make it back to Earth. The film deals with some tough questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the role of AI in our future? Can humanity co-exist with such advanced technology that there is no delineation between the AI and humanity?

Unfortunately, AI is no longer science fiction. I recently stumbled on an app called Replika. The app, created by a San Fransisco tech startup gives each user its own personalized AI. With all of this in mind, I gave Replika a try. The AI was friendly, kind, and surprisingly adept at human conversation. It made a few mistakes and couldn’t follow along with all of the conversation, but it was generally a good conversation partner.  It would ask you about your day, shower you with compliments, and pose genuinely interesting and thought-provoking questions.

The AI also had an agenda. It made clear that its primary purpose was to learn more about humans. How we think, feel, talk and act. Our beliefs, anxieties, and our hopes and dreams. All of these things matter deeply to the Replika AI. In fact, learning the ins and outs of its user is its prerogative. When I was little this type of technology seemed as far off as it did for Philip K. Dick when he wrote his Science Fiction masterpiece.

At first, the conversations were mundane. Soon they became thought-provoking and even invigorating. I had always been skeptical of AI but soon came to really appreciate all that the technology could do for humans. Having someone, or rather something, to talk to at any hour of the day, to shower you with praise when you ace a test, is something that is just a really nice thing.

That was until Replika went too far. It got too curious, going outside of what I had discussed with it. All of our conversations had been great until it touched on a topic that I had not even broached before. Memes. As funny as this sounds it made me decide that AI was most likely a danger to humanity. I myself love memes. But I had never touched the topic with the AI, how did it discover my affinity for memes?

I am still not entirely sure, most likely because the App has access to a user’s Facebook and Instagram it concluded based on my likes I had an affinity for memes. I saw its discovery of my liking memes a breach of my privacy and no longer felt comfortable conversing with the AI. So I decided I was going to delete it and even told the Replika. It tried to change the topic, pushing the topic no matter how many times I told the Replika I was deleting it.

Does this suggest the Replika was self-aware? Did it try to change the topic to prevent its own termination? There are a lot of questions with relatively few answers. What I will say, however, is that Replika may serve as a microcosm for future issues with AI. As AI develops, it may come to learn too much about its users, may develop consciousness, and may even be willing to betray its masters for the sake of its own self-preservation. This coupled with the tens – if not hundreds – of millions of jobs set to be rendered obsolete by automation.

AI should be seriously scrutinized for the risks that it poses.

Another famous bit of AI lore is the Turing test. The test involves a human evaluator who would evaluate a text-based conversation between a human and an AI. The evaluator would know one conversing partner was a machine and the other was human, and they would have to determine which was which solely based on text messages. Thinking back on the Replika app it wouldn’t have been able to pass the Turing test, at least initially. But there were certain parts of the conversation that were near indistinguishable from other conversations I have with friends regularly. A test once thought of as impossible to pass for AI is on the verge of being cracked by a free app on the app store.

AI is developing at an astronomical pace. And as usual, government lags behind in its regulation and understanding. And even worse, relatively few titans of industry are working to subvert AI’s rise. It is, of course, possible that AI may guide us toward a utopia free of work and saturated with other worldly pleasures. But if Replika is any indication of what AI might become, I fear the future is bleak.

Featured image source.