Arrival of human level automated systems marks a transformative time in history.

Nearly half of U.S. jobs could be at risk of computerization over the next two decades, according to a new study from the Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology. This does not necessarily need to be bad news, says futurist Thomas Frey in a recent Futurist Magazine essay.



Frey admits that by 2030, more than 2 billion jobs will disappear as computerized machines gain more proficiency, but he claims this does not need to be treated as doom and gloom, but instead, should make us become more aware of skills necessary for future work.

Frey lists new industries created as our future unfolds, including Personal Rapid Transit Systems, costing literally trillions of dollars and employing hundreds of millions of people. Brought on by development of auto-drive vehicles, this new industry will need station designers and architects, traffic-flow analyzers, command center operators, and construction teams.

Other examples in this fast-developing future time include Bio-Factories. Based on using living systems, bio-factories represent a new process for creating substances that are either too tricky or too expensive to grow in nature or to make with petrochemicals. The rush to develop bio-factories as a means for production promises not only to revolutionize the chemical industry, but also to transform the economy. Find more on Thomas Frey here.

However, from assembly line robots, ATMs, and self-checkout terminals to voice-recognition telephone apps, each year intelligent systems will take over more jobs formerly held by humans; which is confirmed by this Global Trends 2025 report. Experts warn that even doctors and government officials could one day be replaced by increasingly ‘smarter’ systems.

In healthcare, intelligent programs already wield a positive impact. Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, describes in a YouTube video how patient-focused technology improves medicine. In other examples, the Artificial Neural Network helps Mayo Clinic doctors diagnose cardiac patients and many websites provide free medical advice; and even TV ads often disclose critical data.

The ultimate tool to replace doctors though, could be the nanorobot, a tiny microscopic-size machine that can whiz through veins replacing aging and damaged cells with new youthful ones. This nanowonder with expected development time of mid-to-late 2030s could eliminate nearly all need for human doctors.

Automatons that could replace politicians may be a welcome relief. The U.S. Congress debate over finances exposed the inadequacies of human governing when members stubbornly refused to consider opponent’s views. Experts believe that A/I systems, circa 2040s, would have averted these debacles.

Naysayers, though, see allowing machines to make choices for humans as a threat to our dignity. They argue that we should not let computers replace positions such as law makers, judges, or police officers. However, in her book, “Machines Who Think”, Pamela McCorduck argues, “I’d rather take my chances with an impartial computer.” Experts estimate that by 2050, 50 million jobs could be lost to automation.

So, how do we solve this dilemma? As machines take over occupations, there is still much that humans can do to stay employed. Futurist Richard Samson, in his essay, “Highly Human Jobs”, suggests that human knowledge will continue to be needed for some time. AI falls short in areas that are too quirky, emotional, or intuitive to program. Humans still outperform machines in these types of jobs.

However, experts predict by the end of the century; or possibly much sooner, all jobs will disappear. Some believe the final solution will take the form of a Basic Income Guarantee, made available as a fundamental right for everyone. Futurist Marshall Brain in his Robotic Freedom Blog agrees with the idea.

America should create a $25,000 annual stipend for every U.S. adult, Brain says, which would be phased in over two-to-three decades.

Arrival of human level automated systems marks a transformative time in history. Automatons promise a utopian future in a world filled with leisure and adventure for everyone.

Photo credit: IEET

Via Institute of Ethics and Emerging Technologies