Artificial intelligence and increasing automation is going to decimate middle class jobs, worsening inequality and risking significant political upheaval. Automation has gained momentum in the past several areas and is the new normal in sectors like engineering, manufacturing, automobiles, IT and banking. Automation is going to affect the bottom of the pyramid so much so that 5 out of every 10 jobs globally would be lost due to this by 2021, experts say. As automation adoption increases, all high transaction and labour intensive jobs will take a hit and first major effects will be seen in the sectors like manufacturing, IT and ITeS and security services and agriculture.
Let’s us discuss the impact of AI and Automation on some of the sectors-
IT services – Non-technical roles such as Managerial and Testing will be hit first by Automation. As the IT employee move up the ladder with the experience, most of them choose to do managerial tasks and avoid upgrading their technical skills thus creating a pool of inefficient workforce drawing high salaries. With the AI, all roles involving repetitive tasks will be automated and only the workforce having knowledge on hot technologies like Big Data, Analytics etc. are going to gain a competitive edge by meeting IT industry needs.
For example, Quality Assurance – Back in 2007, testing team size for a mid-size project was as large as 10 members in a team against the developers count of 5 members. This was because all the test activities were being carried out manually which in turn was time consuming process and required numbers of testers to accomplish the QA tasks within the stringent deadlines.
With the automation already gained momentum in this field, now in the year 2017, testing team size for a mid-size project is reduced to 1 or 2 members at a max. The entire manual testing process are automated by utilizing the automation frameworks.
Once the organization has already developed the automation frameworks which can be deployed for nearly all the projects, there are practically no jobs left for QA engineers.
For example, Team Leaders/Managers – Back in 2007, there was one team lead and Manager for each team even if the team size was as small as 5 members. Team Lead task was to monitor the tasks of the team members and provide guidance and report the status to the Managers. Managers in turn used to hold meetings with the stakeholders and provide the data as required.
Now in the year 2017, there is hardly any team lead even for mid-size projects with the headcount of 30 members. One can see only one manager handling the administrative tasks for the entire project. This is because high quality automated tools are being developed and utilized for automated data reporting for the projects. Low level employees now play the role of tech experts and managers if the need arises.
So, do you think that developers are in safe heaven? The answer is a big NO. With the machine learning capability to would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate, it is possible to design/code a functionality in milliseconds as compared to humans who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.
So, which jobs are going to survive in IT industry and what will be the number of these jobs? Practically speaking, the jobs which require expertise in hot technologies like Big Data, Analytics and of course machine learning are the ones which have the potential to survive in the coming years till these are also taken up by Artificial Intelligence.
Healthcare – Several healthcare companies like Enlitic are applying deep learning to medicine, starting with the analysis of images such as X-rays and CT scans. Deep learning is renowned for its superhuman prowess at certain forms of image recognition as networks of artificial neurons analyze large datasets to automatically discover underlying patterns, without human intervention which is far beyond the human limits.
For example – Against three expert human radiologists working together, Enlitic’s system was 50% better at classifying malignant tumours and had a false-negative rate (where a cancer is missed) of zero, compared with 7% for the human. Thus, a highly trained and specialized radiologist may now be in greater danger of being replaced by a machine than his/her own executive assistant.
Manufacturing – Needless to say, factory workers will be the worst-hit. the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing. The trend of robots replacing workers is no more restricted to countries like Japan. It is has already accelerated across the globe in the field of manufacturing and production, taking away the livelihood of factory workers.
Manufacturing, for all its technical potential, is only the second most automated sector in the any economy. The activities ranging from packaging products to loading materials on production equipment to welding to maintaining equipment are all being automated. Automats, or automated cafeterias, for example, have long been in use. Now restaurants are testing new, more sophisticated concepts, like self-service ordering or even robotic servers. Solutions such as Momentum Machines’ hamburger-cooking robot, which can reportedly assemble and cook 360 burgers an hour, could automate several cooking and food-preparation activities.
Transportation – Driverless cars is bound to hit the jobs of drivers. Driverless tech has been demonstrated on public roads in countries like the US over the past few years. Such cars are being tested by companies such as Delphi, Google and Tesla. Many of the same companies that have been working to make automated and, eventually, fully autonomous cars mainstream are also working to integrate that same technology into commercial transportation vehicles, more specifically tractor-trailers and commercial trucks. A host of traditional truck manufacturers and technology companies are engaged in initiatives to develop automated driving technology for commercial trucks.
Transportation job represents one of the last industries in which non-college-educated individuals can earn middle class wages. The rollout of automated and autonomous trucks presents a significant threat to the livelihood of millions of these workers.
Conclusion – The time is different and machines will take all the jobs. AI will cause mass unemployment, and it will speed up the existing trend of computer-related automation, disrupting labour markets just as technological change has done before. For ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs will be replaced by machines.
The technology was to free mankind from less productive work and time consuming repetitive task so that the same time can be spend with family and for other innovative activities. Technology was never meant to become a strategy to crush wages and jettison millions of middle class jobs. What we witness now is that due to rise of artificial intelligence, there is job destruction deep into the middle classes, with no jobs remaining and widening financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing.