AI is projected to replace millions of jobs over the next couple of years as it becomes more and more widespread, but some argue it might bring even more jobs. Surely we’ll need engineers to create and maintain AI, but are those new career positions enough to cover the replacement of so many manual labor jobs?
by Maanas Shah
Artificial Intelligence is becoming more commonplace in life and businesses as you read this article. For decades, people have been forewarning an AI takeover for jobs. Specifically, I mean the takeover of human jobs, which can be seen best in the industry sector. A field full of manual and repetitive tasks was the perfect testing ground for the implementation of AI, and as of recent, it has completely taken over. Almost every major factory system is mostly (if not entirely) automated. Of course, this wasn’t always the case, and there used to be workers doing those tasks, workers who no longer had a job. This is where the argument for AI job replacement comes into play.
On the flip side, however, many experts claim that there will not, or there could not, be a complete takeover. They instead believe that AI can and will work in conjunction with humans and create more jobs in some cases. Jobs that didn’t even exist before, such as AI technicians, engineers, et cetera.
However, the ultimate question is, does AI really make or take jobs in the grand scheme of things, or is the issue too nuanced to have a clear-cut answer.
Maker of Jobs:
I’m sure we’ve all heard the argument that AI takes, has taken, or will take our jobs, so let’s begin with the counter to the classic stance. The first and most important reason why AI won’t take over all our jobs is that they simply can’t. Now, it’s evident that they can’t replicate jobs like engineers or lawyers, so let’s stick to the industrial sector. AI shines in factories because they’re just that, factories. Institutions are designed to mass-produce objects with immense speed through a series of many steps. This is something AI can do, can be trained to do. However, take an artisan pot or a finely tuned instrument. These require extreme precision and time with skills only available to humans: problem-solving, thought, and a sense of perfection. However, you may wonder what impact this makes if this part of the industry only makes up a small portion of the total production. Well, take automobiles, for example. There's a reason companies such as Tesla still hire vast amount of workers, and it’s not just software designers. This demonstrates something of a hybrid model. Human workers are still needed to keep the AI chains going, whether this is resupplying chains or maintaining them. Additionally, there are still many precise tasks that need to be handled by a human. Although robots have many advantages, they still have flaws, and these flaws allow human jobs.
In addition to this, there are also the many jobs that AI directly creates. For one, someone needs to make the robots, of course. Just because we have the technology to developAI doesn’t mean we can toss it in everywhere. Each factory is unique, even if it creates the same type of product. Countless factors must be considered to create an AI that can flawlessly execute a task over thousands of iterations. And if it will be conducting thousands of iterations, someone better be there to watch it. A single link in the chain breaking down could completely halt production, costing millions, and for that reason, AI technicians are necessary. There are countless other jobs as well that are needed, AI managers, etc. Just think about it; this is a whole new procedure added to factories; it requires a lot of workforces to operate, even if it’s robotic.
Taker of Jobs:
The age-old prophecy of AI taking our jobs is prophecy no more, however, which is the case in many places you look. As we’ve seen earlier, the industry field of business is especially prevalent with AI. We’ve talked about how this may create some jobs, but let’s take a closer look at those jobs. Factory jobs are typically large in quantity and low in requirements ( educational, specialized skills, etc.), but the replacements AI brings seem to be the exact opposite. A limited number of high-skill, highly technical jobs. This is a massive cause for concern as it essentially destroys a significant chunk of the market for those who need work to sustain their lives but don’t possess any specialized software skills. And when you think about it, it’s these people who need these jobs the most, and they’re going to be hit the hardest by this removal. Software engineers arguably don’t need jobs; there’s plenty in so many fields already that it begs the question, does this even create new jobs?
Another point to make, this time against the hybrid model, is about the number of jobs created. As we stated earlier, workers will still be needed to maintain the AI, but how many workers? It surely won’t be as many as before, and if that’s the case, did AI really create any jobs? If there's a net loss of jobs, doesn’t that defeat the point of creating new jobs?
Ultimately the number of jobs must be taken into account, which often is, but even more crucial is possibly the type of jobs created by AI to what they are replacing.
Taker of some, Maker of others:
AI doesn’t need to just affect the industry, however. Your computer or phone has an AI inbuilt right now. Your security system is probably managed by some central AI. The recommendations tailored for you on Netflix and YouTube are all the results of AI as well. Ultimately, these are entirely new innovations that created jobs that didn't exist before. In this case, AI didn’t replace anything; it made whole new industries out of thin air, which undoubtedly employed numerous people. So, in the end, we may just have to accept that AI has the power to make entirely new jobs at the cost of taking away industrial jobs.
In the end, there’s no surefire way to know where AI will take us in the future. Perhaps it will be complex enough to fully automate every industrial process and more; perhaps we’ll still need to supervise our robotic friends for many years to come. However, one thing is certain in every scenario, and that’s the disappearance of low-requirement assembly line jobs. Ultimately does the number of jobs trump the needs of specific peoples or not in the grand scheme of things?