They Took’er Jobs!

I came across this article the other night and thought it was somewhat interesting. It is pretty much along the lines of what I talk about when I discuss any sort of artificial intelligence, but this article I felt put a bit more practicality and realism to the subject. (In case you were wondering the title to this post is from a famous episode of South Park, I couldn’t resist.)

The article talks about how quite a few of our jobs are already being automated by machines and complex algorithms. While this may be the case I have yet to see that in any industry I am working in, also the article talks about how these algorithms are created to make quicker and more efficient decisions, and are reducing costs for companies that use them. In essence they are somewhat replacing middle management. The article talks about the certain industries that are applying these computer programs and it seems like they are working.

The article is very brief but it does make somewhat of a good point. The algorithms and other computer programs seem to be working very well in certain industries such as transportation (Uber and Lift). You could easily see how those two companies could use and be more efficient applying this technology. They both use an algorithm to get the fastest route and many other things. While I think using this technology mostly makes sense for these industries, I am not convinced that my job or for that matter a great deal of others are in jeopardy of being taken over by machines.

I think there is a fine line when talking about this subject. I use to work in the consulting industry and I would be hard pressed to figure out a way where a machine could do my job. While it was not overly complicated in any way, I would think it would be tough or near impossible to have a machine or algorithm complete my daily tasks. With that being said I also think that my company could have invested in a large system to house data where customers could basically create their own reports and more or less do the work themselves. Still there is a bit of proprietary knowledge that the “experts” at my last company had that would be difficult to transfer to a machine to make a “business decision” for clients. If you cannot tell I am somewhat of a skeptic and think that articles like these are somewhat of a “Chicken Little the sky is falling” sort of deal. I am sure I could find another article written by other experts that says the exact opposite. So I am not ready to become a Luddite just yet, nor am I ready to say machines will soon rule every aspect of our lives.

However, I do think that eventually machines and other complex algorithms will make us more efficient, in wherever they are applied. If that is the case then I also think that eventually that will cause some individuals to lose their jobs, so while that article is technically correct and machines may eventually take over your job it is not as extreme as the article states. As a consumer I would think this would be a good thing, for the most part, and hopefully would make goods and services cheaper. If companies are more efficient and can operate with less employees and still produce quality products and services I think we all win. There is also the possibility to improve aspects of production and use less materials to produce the same product. This is all in theory of course, and I wonder if these algorithms and machines will technically, on paper, make things more efficient but will not account for the human element involved. The only example I can come up with is the idea of Communism. If you believe in communism, that is fine, but we all know when applied to the real world it does not work. Humans have a hard time doing more work and getting the same or less, that aspect just does not make sense in the real world. So I wonder if there will be issues like this that arise where on paper they make sense, but either logistically or mechanically they are impossible or do not make sense. Again I cannot think of a specific example but I also think that whoever is making the algorithm would account for these factors. Still I wonder if something unforeseen would arise.

Lastly the article talks about how eventually we could basically just become a cog in the wheel that is controlled by either a machine or program. Basically it makes all the decisions and we do what it says because it can make the quickest and most efficient decision. Again I think this is somewhat of an extreme example, but as long as we are speculating, I do not think it is out of the realm of possibility.

I don’t think this will be a huge deal or migration to new technology that will eliminate a plethora of jobs. I believe it will be a gradual move that will slowly make companies more efficient while possibly and probably eliminating jobs along the way. While on the surface this does not seem great, no one wants to lose their job, I do not think this will be as big of a deal that some people think. Also, it is important to note that the article mostly talks about middle management being the area where jobs will be cut. While I don’t think that will be out of the realm of possibility, as like me, I am sure many of you out there have had some horrible managers and would have rather answered to a machine than the incompetent moron who tells you what to do. At the very least the machine would be fare, right?

Anyways this is just something to think about, and as always there is a part of me that thinks that we are still a long way off from what the article talks about. But it could happen so slowly and gradually that but the time we figure out what has happened, we are answering to our new mechanical overlords.

Manik

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