Automation impact on jobs

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This topic contains 15 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Robin 1 year, 4 months ago.

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    According to Forrester AI will replace 6% of jobs in the next 5 years. I don’t think AI will have a tremendous impact on occupations. We might see job losses for low-wage labour but on the other hand job gains for high-wage occupations.


    6% seems a little high to me. I agree it will be low paid workers that lose out though, which will cause social problems. It would be nice to read the report but it’s $500!


    What happens in the next 5 years is not the going to be the real worrying change. The advances are running on a exponential exponential. This means when it happens the effect on jobs will be significant and it will happen suddenly. The problem is it will happen in several industries at the same time. Take for example Taxi drivers and Lorry Drivers. There are 3.5M lorry drivers in the US – around 2025-2030 all these jobs could go – its up to government to limit the rate of change and I suspect that this will reduce the disruption. The government may also need to create jobs (say in Education, Arts and Philosophy) in order to reduce the disruption. This will be exconomically possible because a countries wealth could actually increase.

    Also these effects will have the worst effect in countries with the highest populations eg India and China – this the reverse to what economists are predicting at the moment. This is an effect economists have missed because economists can only extrapolate historic data – perhaps they need some artificial intelligence.


    I think an interesting example is Japan.

    If you have ever travelled on their rail networks there are an inordinate number of humans on hand to help with the simplest thing. This “mob-handed” approach applies across much of the public sector. Government intervention through employment, keeps the employment rate of semi-skilled Japanese at an acceptable level. A country of 200million+ needs to control the erosion of human employment.

    The worrying statistics about the current generation – low personal interactions / shut-ins – show that even decades of intervention cannot halt potential damage to social constructs that can occur thanks to technological advancements.


    @jamestabor I’m not sure I agree with keeping people employed in jobs that don’t need to be jobs just so they have something to do! How about a basic income paid for by the cost savings made from AI making everything more efficient?


    But a basic income with no job to go to is nothing. The idea is to allow a soft landing and not a straight dive to poverty

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 9 months ago by  James.

    True, people would need to be kept busy rather than sitting around all day, though I’m not sure what that would entail. There must be a better way than making things deliberately inefficient to keep people off the juice!?


    It’s certainly a philosophical question. There isn’t, in Japan, deliberate inefficiency – just a huge amount of people on hand to help out.
    This is a challenge we’ve faced for centuries, and it has been increasingly evident from the Industrial Revolution onwards. In essence it is Singularity made life.
    If we think of Singularity as a U-shaped curve with skills going from “Soft” (Business, relationship management, sales, finance, etc) at one end to “Technical” (hardcore technologists, and researchers breaking new ground) at the other. There is a large swathe in the middle whose jobs could be phased out in the next c. 100 years.
    What do we do with the people? Or more importantly, what do people do with themselves? Are we going to see millions of professional drivers wiped out? What do they do next? While a guaranteed income would be nice, there’s only so much golf you can play in your 30s/40s/50s.
    Similarly, there is potential that lower rungs of knowledge based careers are going to be eliminated. This will reshape how the law, parts of medicine, architecture, engineering, and IT on-boards the next generations of employees.
    One thing we can take comfort from though – this is not the first time humanity has grappled with the questions of unforeseen explosions in productivity. Like all of those that preceded – this one is happening faster than the ones before.


    It’s the boring repetitive jobs which will go first – so that taxi and lorry drivers, cleaners, lower level office workers etc. This means many humans become owners or bosses of robots – their job is to oversee the robots and make sure things are working. Others will take the role of doing arts/philosophy etc and it will need government to create these roles which it will be able to afford because overall a country will be more efficient. But its worth pointing out there is a reversal of fortunes for countries with very large populations eventually as the countries with smaller populations which are more efficient and therefore more wealthy – this is the opposite of today’s trends and economists are currently making predictions which are incorrect as a result.

    It’s worth pointing out that this scenario has happened before in history. 3000 years ago in ancient Athens 50% of the population were slaves and the other half where the owners/bosses of the slaves. During this period the arts and philosophy florished and people (who were not slaves) were happy and fullfilled.

    So its not necessarily all bad news so long as the transition to the new way of working is not sudden and everyone can adapt. Its should be the policy of government to make sure the changes happen at a managable rate and that the people are OK with the change.


    @robinjewsbury, I think you hit the nail on the head with “so long as the transition to the new way of working is not sudden and everyone can adapt.” I suspect that this will not be the case; look at how rapid recent progress has been in self driving vehicles for instance. I don’t see how governments can create policy to slow this rapid advancement. Firstly, it would take a global consensus that is very unlikely, and secondly, the rate governments can create policy is significantly slower than the rate of technological advancement. I’m sure new jobs and industries will open up as a result of technology, as it always has done, but the middle that @jamestabor described is in for a difficult 10-15 years.


    @paulharrison you make a very good point and I am concerned you could be totally right. However, I think whether or not a government slows down a technology is purely down to public opinion (and not international competition) and I do think this issue needs to be discussed openly and widely so people understand its importance – the unions and labour party will be supporting the delay point of view. Whereas I personally have never supported delays by government on Technology I now think its something all parties should be concerned about.

    Just look at the Heathrow decision which has taken 10 years – the delay has been down to the government worrying about the opposition to the project and the delay has affected our position in air travel worldwide. In fact government is very adept at causing decision delays.

    I am sure that China will allow self drive cars before any western country regulation authority allows it – I am not saying they should not open up to it, but they need to do it slowly so the affect on jobs and society as a whole is not catastrophic and this can be at the expense of our efficiency in the world economy. China itself will be at risk of social disruption if they allow the tech to take hold too quickly and they will not hesitate to intervene when they realise what’s happening.

    No doubt its going to be a tough next 20-30 years for many ordinary people but at the end of that period life will be much better for everyone and it will be the end of low paid boring jobs – so its the most disadvantaged who gain the most; hopefully its this vision which will save us.


    @robinjewsbury @paulharrison The UK government are masters of fence sitting and pandering to the masses. If it wins them votes they’ll do it, in many cases regardless on the consequences. My big concern is that the public’s perception of AI is Skynet or the Cylons. Therefore the government will regulate it to the point of hindering advancement (ca. GMOs and therapeutic uses of illegal drugs).

     Paul Imre 

    Is everyone on this thread snoozing?
    The news seems to be alive with opinion at the moment, example, Bill Gates suggests taxing Robots.
    The journalist, Paul Mason, in his book on postcapitalism suggests taxing capital as a way forward. How can you continue to tax labour when people are out of jobs?
    By some estimates well over 40% of jobs will go. This will be the economic singularity and this will occur well before the general artificial intelligence singularity.
    Countries such as Finland are already experimenting with minimum incomes.
    If people are out of work, who will buy the goods? The top 1% will certainly not buy 100,000 iphones at a time each. It would appear that consumption will be lost. Are we about to see a total breakdown in our economic models? And shouldn’t someone wake up the people in control of the wheel before we go careering off a cliff?


    Strongly agree with the above comments around a wage without a role is not something we should aim for. Especially if that ‘wage’ is relatively minimal, you will end up with a huge number of very bored and disenfranchised people who are just getting by.

    We need to aim for a world where the automation, AI, robots etc. enrich our lives and enable us to pursue ‘higher’ goals, whatever they may be. Whether this is more thought leadership roles, more arts and creative work or other new things I don’t know.

    As well as driving the technology, I think those of us who understand this space and see what may be coming have a responsibility to help work out how this can lead to a better world for all.

    How can we use these advances to improve everyones lives?
    How can we use these advances to lead to more fulfilling lives?
    How can we use these advances to spread health / wealth / improve lives globally?

     Paul Imre 

    @kevin_1 you are asking all the right questions.

    However, there is a big BUT. 1st mover advantage is massive and could mean life or death for many a business. Take Amazon as an example. They are going the whole hog with technology. Stores with no staff, drone deliveries and robots to pick goods from shelves. Very few employed, all the profits amassed and little to come back to society via trickle down. Yet Amazon uses all of the infrastructure paid for by others through their taxes. Who can possibly compete with Amazon and provide the jobs? It is a race to the bottom.

    If there are no jobs and the pie is getting bigger through improvements in productivity, how then do you share the benefits? Basically your last three questions.

    If people can not earn then what can you do? Our current models break down, just as the laws of physics change as you approach the singularity.

    We know that there will be some zeros getting plugged into the traditional economics graphs and that these formulae will speak back nonsense to us. We know this, we can see this and we have some time. Inaction will surely lead to riots and tyranny.

    Back to the minimum income with all of the warts that you mention. Is there another way? With the time that we have, these and similar are questions are the ones that we need to think about. Some want to bring back old jobs, open up coal mines and smash the machines. History would suggest that momentum is always forwards and where exactly is the destination that we are headed for?

    Perhaps we should ask the Greek philosophers.

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