The worry that AI could do to white-collar jobs what steam power and combustion engines did to blue-collar ones during the Industrial Revolution is worth taking seriously. I stated in a previous article that you didn’t need to worry about losing your job to a robot. Well, I have had a change of heart after reading more about AI and how it will be applied to robotics of all sorts. Yes, white collar workers are also in the scope of being replaced by more efficient humanoids or androids.
What were the most significant benefits from the industrial revolution to date? Here are my choices of the many possibilities:
- Increased food production – less hungry people
- Time saving devices – more leisure time increases knowledge which leads to higher wages and better economies
- Cheaper products that are more available – the lower class gets to live at a higher standard
Automation of the local farming community is probably not well understood by most of us here in Roswell, but ask a farmer and you would be very surprised about what is automated and what is not. The ‘tractor’ had to be the most significant automation for the farming industry. What used to take hundreds of labor hours to harvest a crop can now be done by one person with his machines in a fraction of the time? GPS guided tractors and harvesters are just very large robots. The one innovation that really impressed me recently was the Japanese invention of a strawberry picker, something I did as one of my high school summer jobs along side the many migrate workers from Mexico. Terrestrial farming is basically automated now and it is starting to move indoors (like tomatoes or medicinal marijuana). However, that will require lots of cheap energy (another reason for small thorium fueled molten salt nuclear reactors).
Robotic manufacturing is also very mature as an automation process especially in assembly plants. It sometimes amazes me that our politicians talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the US. Newsflash – it won’t increase jobs because any new manufacturing business will probably be 90%+ automated and require just a few employees compared to what it did 40 years ago when those jobs went over seas for cheaper labor. Automated manufacturing managed by AI will make the American economy competitive, but won’t necessarily create jobs. With the hard working labor force getting older every decade, more and more task will have to be automated. The robotic burger flipper is already in production. More and more service jobs will be on the block in the near future with AI robotics.
As robots get smarter, humans just won’t be able to keep up. “Once machines can match human intelligence, it will be a simple matter of copying intelligent agent software, which is capable of programming an artificial mind, from one computer to the next to create more robotic workers for the economy. Whereas the economy doubled every thousand years after the agricultural revolution, and every 15 years after the industrial revolution, a post-singularity economy could double every month,” according to Robin Hanson, economist from George Mason University in Washington DC. That blistering pace of economic growth could be so fast that humans won’t be able to keep up. I know for a fact that our Government will never be able to keep up. They are still trying to figure out the benefits of nuclear energy 60 years later.
Perhaps the best way to think about AI is to see it as simply the latest in a long line of cognitive enhancements that humans have invented to augment the abilities of their brains.