AI And The Future Of Work
To some, the term “AI” brings up sci-fi fantasies or fear about robots taking over the world but in reality, AI is already at work all around us, impacting everything from our search results, to our online dating prospects, to the way we shop.
Data shows that the use of AI in many sectors of business has grown by 270% over the last four years. But the pressing question is; what does AI hold for the future of work?
As with many technological developments throughout history, the advancement of artificial intelligence has created fears that human workers will become obsolete.
What is AI?
Britannica states that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.”
Given how artificial intelligence has been portrayed in some of our favorite sci-fi movies, it has created fear that AI will one day make human beings obsolete in the workforce. After all, with the advance in technology, many tasks once executed by human hands have become automated. It’s only natural to fear that the leap toward creating intelligent computers could indicate the beginning of the end of work as we know it.
AI drives innovation
But, a recent paper published by the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future entitled “Artificial Intelligence And The Future of Work,” looked closely at developments in AI and their relation to the world of work. The paper however paints a more optimistic picture.
Rather than the obsolescence of human labor, the paper predicts that AI will continue to drive massive innovation that will fuel many existing industries and could have the potential to create many new sectors for growth, ultimately leading to the creation of more jobs.
Is AI really Limitless?
While AI has made major strides toward replicating the efficacy of human intelligence in executing certain tasks, there are still major limitations.
AI programs are typically only capable of “specialized” intelligence, meaning they can solve only one problem, and execute only one task at a time. Often, they can be rigid, and unable to respond to any changes in input, or perform any “thinking” outside of their prescribed programming.
Humans, however, possess “generalized intelligence,” with the kind of problem solving, abstract thinking and critical judgment that will continue to be important in business.
AI often requires “learning” which can involve massive amounts of data, calling into question the availability of the right kind of data, and highlighting the need for categorization and issues of privacy and security around such data.
There is also the limitation of computation and processing power. The cost of electricity alone to power one supercharged language model AI was estimated at $4.6 million.
According to the MIT CCI paper: “we are a long way from reaching a point in which AI is comparable to human intelligence, and could theoretically replace human workers entirely”.
With adequate investment at all levels, from education to the private sector and governmental organizations—anywhere that focuses on training and up-skilling workers—AI has the potential to ultimately create more jobs, not less.
The question should then become not “humans or computers” but “humans and computers” involved in complex systems that advance industry and prosperity.