By 2033, it’s predicted that nearly half the country’s jobs will be taken over by robots.
Published 4:00 am, Sunday, June 17, 2018
Photo: Peter Cade | Getty Images
People often fear that a robot will take their job. Unfortunately, that fear might not be so far-fetched.
The idea of a robot revolution is becoming more and more realistic. On average, one robot can do the job of 5.6 persons in the manufacturing industry. However, artificial intelligence threatens more than just manufacturing. From IBM’s Watson, which can specify cancer treatments for patients, to the rise of self-driving cars, AI is infiltrating nearly every industry and diminishing the need for the human touch.
So what does this mean for the future? According to research compiled by Online Schools Center, by 2025, the amount of robots in the U.S. could quadruple, and by 2033, nearly half of all jobs in the country could be at risk of automation. In order to accomodate a world where robots make up half the workforce, some professionals suggest a universal basic income with heavy corporate taxes be implemented along with the removal of employment-based income. Of course, that’s easier said than done, but imagine a technology-driven world where most things are free and luxuries such as driverless cars, AI personal assistants and smart home tech are common.
Workers across the world are increasingly aware of what many consider an existential threat to a wide array of jobs. Safe and efficient autonomous vehicles, for example, may make truck drivers obsolete in the not too distant future. At the same time, advocates of technology argue, people around the planet are finding new and often better opportunities thanks to continuing industrial innovation. The world of work is changing, from Silicon Valley to the Nile Valley, where Spotlight visited to discover how developments in agri-technology are revolutionising crop cultivation. Once part of the desert, a camomile field near Faiyum southwest of Cairo, now provides a seasonal income opportunity for local women. Faiyum is one of Egypt’s poorest provinces, with particularly high female unemployment. Hundreds of women are employed here, and business is growing, thanks to new technologies. “These women come from nearby villages,” says Om Said, a local entrepreneur. “There are always people there in need of work. For them, it’s means for living. With new technologies, we can deliver more product in shorter time. The drying process now only takes two days. This greatly speeds up the production.” At harvest time, around 200 workers process up to 300 tons of camomile. The plants are dried in a fast and hygienic way using a solar heat collector. The technology was developed by local researchers a few years ago and since greatly enhanced, spinning off a business creating high- and low-level jobs across Egypt, according to Prof. Wael Abdelmoez, and environment and energy expert and founder of R&D Tech. “High level, which covers the engineers and PhD holders who are already working on the design and supervision of the manufacturing of solar driers; the labourers, who are working running the facility itself; and the females, who are working in the field itself, whose numbers have increased dramatically”. Shrinking subsidies on fossil fuels in MENA countries make solar power more competitive, leading to innovation and job creation. In Egypt, I talked to Prof. Wael Abdelmoez, founder of R&D Tech that develops solar driers for camomile and other agricultural products pic.twitter.com/2yVQwmh4MF— Denis Loctier (@Loctier) December 29, 2017 The Future is Green Green jobs are on the rise in a region that long relied on cheap fossil fuels. Amid climate change and shrinking oil subsidies, greener alternatives appear to stimulate local economies. “It means more traction: we can export more, so we can buy more from the locals, we employ more people to do this post-harvesting processing, sieving and packaging, so it’s a lot of economic activity going on,” says Heba Labib, whose company Nile’s Gift exports medicinal herbs and spices. Experts say Egypt’s move to a greener economy will create jobs, generate technologies and draw greater investment. But what of concerns that advances in technology will have the opposite effect on jobs? Nothing to worry about, according to Boston start-up Harvest Automation. At its site a little robot scurries around, using a set of sensors to move potted plants, arranging them in a pattern that optimises growth. Until now, this was always done by humans. “This job of moving the plants around on the ground is the worst job on the whole farm,” says Harvest Automation CEO, Charlie Grinnell. Dozens of his clients of have passed this task on to robots: “Nobody was losing their jobs in this industry when the robots came along.” The manufacturers say their robots aren’t killing jobs. Quite the opposite: they help growers hire more workers who want to do something more valuable than just moving plants around. “Everyone would rather do other jobs, whether it’s tending to the plants as they are growing, or driving a tractor, or other things,” maintains Grinnell. “My customers have a challenge just finding workers to do this kind of work.” Artificial Intelligence Developers expect artificial intelligence to quickly move beyond moving pots around. Another Boston company, Neurala, is
As scary as it all might sound, a robot revolution doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Like the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, by having machines take over human labor and humans to contribute more cognitive labor, the AI revolution could have similar outcomes. People will have more time to pursue hobbies and passions, volunteer and learn about new technologies. That’s not so bad, right?
To learn more, check out Online Schools Center’s infographic below.
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