The new advancements in technological innovation are anticipated to alter the future of jobs fundamentally. However, the present debate about the influence of developing technology on jobs is controversial. Some people predict a jobless future, whereas others contend that history might repeat itself and that new technologies will ultimately lead to better and jobs (Nubler, 2016). Creation of new industries and fundamental changes in the systems of production and technologies, are major causes of growth and development in various industrial sectors. Automation, digitalization, and artificial intelligence, for instance, can potentially change the world of work by destroying jobs, generating new ones, and altering the nature of jobs (Nubler, 2016). Policymakers, workers, the industrial revolution, and business people have been uncertain about technological advancement. Though some associate digitalization and automation with job creation, history does not always repeat itself. New technologies such as learning robotics and multi-functional sensors are expected to be large scale and vast in scope, thus generating an unprecedented loss of jobs. This essay, therefore, will critically evaluate the statement, “Digitalization, automation and artificial intelligence are fundamentally reducing the availability of jobs, raising the prospect of a “jobless future.”
What digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence entail
Digitalization refers to the use of digital information and technologies to transforming business processes. It involves converting analog input into a numerical format readable by a computer. Digitalization changes present jobs, thus requiring new skills to operate and run new tasks. This implies that the present labor force has to be retained or substituted with workers who already have the required skills (De et al., 2017). Digitalization generates new jobs, while other jobs become redundant. On the other hand, Artificial intelligence refers to the aptitude of a machine or a computer to exhibit intelligent human-like abilities like reasoning, learning, planning and creativity (Amisha, Pathania, and Rathaur, 2019). Due to artificial intelligence, technical systems can perceive their environment, deal effectively with the perceptions, provide solutions to various problems and work diligently in a attaining a specific objective. The computer takes the already gathered or prepared data through its sensors like the camera, processes it, and responds. Artificial intelligence systems can adapt a certain behavior to a certain degree, analyze the results of previously-formed actions and work on them autonomously.
Automation, on the other hand, refers to the method, system or technique of controlling or operating a process using highly automatic means, such as electronic devices, which reduce human involvement (Mishev, 2006). Automation can replace millions of workers like telephone operators, factory and railroad workers, and farmers, reducing employments. However, although many jobs are lost due to automation, works in various industries still persist. Automated Teller Machines (ATM), are a good example of automation. When ATMs were introduced, people thought that bank workers like tellers would cease to work. However, this was not the case. Though the banks ended up employing fewer tellers, over a period of time, ATMs made work easier causing the banks to open more branches thus employing more bank tellers (Mishev, 2006). Correspondingly, after the introduction of spreadsheet software, about two million bookkeepers lost jobs. Yet, it also generated other jobs in the form of financial analysts, accountants, and auditors.
How digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence reduce the availability of jobs raising the prospect of a “jobless future.”
Rapid automation causes unemployment on a large scale, not as a temporary shock but as a new normal (Income, 2020). Before, this could be seen as dystopian fiction, but now it could become our future, especially with the significant advances in robotics and machine learning. Automation raises the prospect of a jobless future because many firms are now adopting robots to various extents. Its impact varies among different groups and different parts of the country. The automotive industry has highly adopted robots more than other industries. For instance, in the United States, middle and lower-income workers perform manual labor, especially those who live in Texas and Rust Bel, and their work is mainly affected by robots (Brown, 2021). Though there is evidence that automation increases productivity and is significant for continued growth and development for organizations, it reduces labor demand and destroys jobs at the same time. Automated technologies do not bring shared prosperity alone thus need to be combined with other technological changes to generate more jobs.
Industrial robots are automatically controlled and reprogrammable. They are multipurpose machines and they can do various works like packaging, painting, and welding; they are wholly autonomous and do not need human beings to assist them during operations. In the U.S., industrial robots grew fourfold between 1993 and 2007 to a single robot replacing a thousand employees. In terms of industrial robots, Europe is slightly ahead of the U.S. where its rate grew to 1.6 robots replacing a thousand workers in that period. (Brown, 2021). Advancements in technology adversely affect labor force through the displacement effect, whereby robots and other automation complete the tasks that were previously done by workers.
Automation; robot replacement is just a matter of time. Deep automation will touch all job sectors, from manual labor to knowledge work (Kelly, 2013). At the end of this century, it is expected that seventy percent of current occupations will be replaced by automation. Reduction and loss of jobs is not the only reason for a jobless future. Another reason is the need for high production of goods and services that are highly efficient and of high quality. Jobs that workers can perform robots can perform better. Workers can weave cotton cloth with excellent skills and efforts, but automated machines can weave perfect fabric.
Moreover, jobs that workers cannot do robots can (Kelly, 2013). For instance, workers have challenges making a single brass screw unassisted, yet automated machines can make a thousand screws within a short period of time. Similarly, no individual, indeed no group of individuals, can swiftly search through all web pages in the world to identify a single page that reveals the price of eggs in a city in U.S., for example. Therefore, if the impacts of automation on employment are not taken into account, it will lead us to a jobless future by wholly performing the work that human beings could do. Not just because they want automation but due to the need for efficiency in work, high-quality products, and high productivity.
Artificial intelligence is one of the advanced technologies which possess human intelligence in A.I. systems. McCarthy (1989) argued that any feature of intelligence or each aspect of learning could be in principle be so precisely that a machine can stimulate it. So, attempts are made to make computers use language and concepts, create abstractions, and solve problems that could be solved by humans. AI is replacing human tasks with robots. Workers’ intrusion is becoming less, creating a big problem in employment standards. Almost every firm is now looking to substitute a minimum of qualified individuals with A.I. robots that can do similar works efficiently. This contributes to a jobless future.
Artificial intelligence engineering is made to help workers in sectors like science and medicine. Robot engineering will gradually lead human beings to the spheres of the highest development level and will slowly guide workers to stunning technological success. Thus, considering the dazzling possibilities that robot engineering opens, it is evident that this type of technology has a bright future. Bright future in that people, especially in the medical sector, will be able to conduct impossible operations and cope with problems that used to be highly out of reach for the most experienced doctors (Huang, Rust, and Maksimovic, 2019). In the near future, artificial intelligence will replace the military authority in our various countries. Robotic technologies will be used as defensive means for the people in a particular country. Maintaining constant control of the area, robots can provide society with greater safety than the army. This will force the military workers to lose their jobs.
While artificial intelligence has gradually advanced since its development in the 1950s, the field has not yet still attained the goal of creating machines that can solve problems independently like human beings. However, researchers predict some crucial advancements in A.I. in the future. Breakthroughs are being made to improve the speech recognition abilities of machines. With technological advances, intelligent machines are predicted to be able to recognize and communicate fluently in natural language and detect emotions and respond to them accordingly (Huang, Rust, and Maksimovic, 2019). Emotion detection and emulation will be a significant advancement in artificial intelligence since it closely mimics human behavior. Implications of this technology affect the employment sector. Having a self-driven cab in the streets, for instance, will send the drivers home, reducing employment rates. Similarly, nobody is venturing into vending stores due to self-running vending machines since one can easily buy a vending machine and find a vending space. This leaves so many people jobless, creating high employment rates.
According to Fossen and Sorgner (2018), United States’ labor force are presently in jobs that are high to be replaced by machines in the next one or two decades. Various studies of other countries have also confirmed the results. As a result, digitalization has far-reaching complications for the labor market. Digitalization alters the quality and quantity of labor needed. Indeed, more work can be performed automatically with little or no human participation. However, this is not a new phenomenon. During the industrial revolution, simple, repetitive labor mainly was automated. What has changed now is that more complex and less frequently jobs are also automatized (De, et al. 2017). This reduces demand for lo-skilled, medium-skilled, and even high-skilled workers. Currently, these jobs are performed by a smaller number of high-skilled collar workers. However, if the labor markets are flexible, the technical transformations might not lead to loss of jobs. If there are inflexibilities in labor market, then it may cause unemployment. For instance, coal miners can lose jobs due to technical change but due to geographical immobility they may get new jobs. In this case, technical changes will cause temporally increase in loss of jobs until the coal miners develop greater skills.
As discussed, it is evident that digitalization, automation, and artificial intelligence are examples of technologies that minimize the availability of jobs, creating a prospect of a jobless future. Automation involves usage of control system of information technologies in reducing human work in the production of goods and services. Digitalization is the use of digital technologies and information to transform business operations. Many systems in artificial intelligence like Automated Teller Machine and spreadsheets have replaced the role of workers, which renders them jobless. Regarding automation, rates of job losses increase due to machines replacing workers out of their jobs.
Though some people argue that these new technologies generate new jobs, it is difficult to determine whether these technologies will generate jobs in the future and easier to identify the kind of tasks that artificial intelligence, for instance, might grab from humans. Any repetitive task or routine will likely be automated. In the future, if people emphasize on technology; they might become disconnected from various industrial processes. They may cease to comprehend how things work, thus becoming de-skilled. Though automation, digitalization, and artificial intelligence improve efficiency, increase production, produce high-quality goods, and create new jobs, leading to job loss among workers. It is evident that in the future, the latest technologies will destroy and take all the jobs by doing tasks previously done by workers, thus rendering a jobless future. However, while the future is uncertain, people should analyze the central issues of new and emerging technologies on future of jobs and understand the link between innovations, technologies, mechanisms that can destroy careers and generate new jobs.
Amisha, P.M., Pathania, M. and Rathaur, V.K., 2019. Overview of artificial intelligence in medicine. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 8(7), p.2328.
Brown, S., 2021. A new study measures the actual impact of robots on jobs. It’s significant. | MIT Sloan. [online] MIT Sloan. Available at: <https://mitsloan.mit.edu/ideas-made-to-matter/a-new-study-measures-actual-impact-robots-jobs-its-significant.
De Groen, W.P., Lenaerts, K., Bosc, R. and Paquier, F., 2017. Impact of digitalization and the on-demand economy on labor markets and the consequences for employment and industrial relations. Final Study. CEPS Special Report, August 2017.
Fossen, F.M. and Sorgner, A., 2018. The effects of digitalization on employment and entrepreneurship. In conference proceeding paper, IZA–Institute of Labor Economics.
Huang, M.H., Rust, R. and Maksimovic, V., 2019. The feeling economy: Managing in the next generation of artificial intelligence (A.I.). California Management Review, 61(4), pp.43-65.
Income, P.B., 2020. Planning for Mass Unemployment. Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, p.183.
Kelly, 2013. Will cheap robots take jobs from costly humans?. New Scientist, 217(2904), p.3.
McCarthy, J., 1989. Artificial intelligence, logic, and formalizing common sense. In Philosophical logic and artificial intelligence (pp. 161-190). Springer, Dordrecht.
Mishev, G., 2006. Analysis of the automation and the human worker, connection between the levels of automation, and different automation concepts.
Nübler, I., 2016. New technologies: A jobless future or golden age of job creation. International Labour Office Research Department Working Paper, 13, pp.22-23.