Sometimes, it seems like robots are completely taking over the world. Every year, thousands of machines are deployed into the workforce, taking jobs that humans used to do.
And, workers are rightly worried.
A new survey from CNBC and Survey Monkey found that almost four in 10 workers between the ages of 18 and 24 are concerned about new technology – like robots and artificial intelligence systems, taking over their jobs. It’s a much higher percentage than any other age group.
Dan Schawbel, research director of Future Workplace, told CNBC that one reason why the younger generation is more concerned about a robot takeover is that artificial intelligence has rapidly become normalized throughout our society, and the length remaining in young people’s careers will likely be impacted by AI.
“They are starting to see the value of [AI] and how it’s impacting their personal and professional lives,” he said. Talking to our phones (“Hey, Siri!”) or using Alexa to turn on and off our lights are just a couple of examples of how artificial intelligence has already made its way into our lives.
Jobs most susceptible to a robot takeover
There are many industries where people are very afraid of losing their jobs to robots.
For instance, automotive workers tend to be more worried than workers in other sectors. Robots have already taken over tasks like painting, welding, and complex assembly lines in many automotive factories.
Factories represent a significant proportion of robot deployments, and news stories over the past five or six years have clearly shown the impact that robots have had. In some cases, factories saw a 200+ percent increase in productivity after deploying robots.
Other work sectors like advertising and marketing, business logistics, and transportation have also seen drastic efficiency improvements by robots in jobs that people used to do.
For instance, self-driving trucks are beginning to concern truck drivers around the nation about the future of their jobs. Daimler has been testing self-driving trucks since 2014, and Tesla released their first autonomous truck almost four years ago.
San Diego-based startup TuSimple is working on a whole fleet of autonomous freight trucks. Though only about 40 TuSimple trucks are currently in use, the company plans a phased release of more trucks through 2024.
Truck drivers are naturally fearful.
“There is a fear, with some research to back it up, that it’s going to be hard to retrain and retool truck drivers to take on other jobs,” Schawbel said. “You know with a truck driver you can just eliminate the truck driver, whereas with professionals doing finance or accounting, certain tasks that they do can be automated, but they have a little more flexibility to do other tasks that could be more valuable.”
Artificial intelligence has already made a huge impact in the advertising industry. Companies like Google, Facebook, and many other social media networks and information providers use sophisticated computer algorithms to collect, track and predict human behavior.
Often without your knowledge, advertisements on the websites that you visit are prepared specifically for you based on your previous Google searches and website visits. For example, have you ever noticed that after searching Amazon for headphones, advertisements on other websites that you visit will suddenly focus on headphones?
This is artificial intelligence at work, and it involves very little human interaction.
But, artificial intelligence doesn’t stop with advertising.
Push notifications are designed around behavioral recognition to deliver the right message at the right time. And, natural-language processing can predict what you’re going to write (or say) before you even say it. Further, many online businesses use “chatbots” to automatically respond to easy support requests from their customers without humans getting involved.
Robots and artificial intelligence are everywhere, both inside as well as outside of our offices and factories. Robots can work around the clock. They can easily do repetitive (and dangerous) tasks quickly.
Other than basic maintenance, Robots also don’t require benefits like health insurance or vacation time, making them an attractive choice for many businesses.
Artificial intelligence systems make decisions for us based on patterns and previous events. They “learn” as they go, and they remove a lot of the brainpower that humans were expected to use in advertising, marketing, and business logistics.
Robots and artificial intelligence have been shown to increase efficiency and boost productivity. But, at what human cost?