The Robots Are Coming For Your Job
Industrial automatons have been on the march for years, devouring the middle-class job opportunities of factory workers. But this time is different.
If you think your family’s future is safe because you don’t rely on factory work, think again. Rapid advances in AI have already turned yesterday’s science fiction into today’s brave new “creative destruction” — the constant churn of economic and cultural innovations that destroy existing ways of doing things. A network of inventors and investors, hundreds of university engineering and math departments, thousands of government-funded research projects, countless freelance innovators and the entire corporate establishment are “re-inventing” practically every workplace by displacing AI robots.
This mass-scale deployment of robots has already ushered i n a whole new world of work. It’s a CEO’s capitalist paradise, where the workforce doesn’t call in sick or take vacations, can’t unions — and is cheap.
As a result, robots are rapidly climbing the pay ladder into white-collar and professional positions that millions of college-educated, middle-class employees have wrongly considered safe, including:
• Doctoring. Robots have long served as surgical assistants, but today’s robotic sawbones can be the primary slicer-dicers, operating with more precision than humans. Robots are now performing millions of surgeries every year. Moreover, advanced doc-bots increasingly diagnose and choose treatments based on their ability to digest thousands of scientific articles, medical reports, patient records, etc. In 2012, Vinod Khosla, billionaire co-founder of Sun Microsystems, noted: “Much of what physicians do ... can be done better by sensors, passive and active data collections, and analytics.” His stunning conclusion was that computers will eventually replace 80 percent of what doctors now do.
• Delivering the goods. While online retail giants have already eliminated hundreds of thousands of sales clerks by radically restructuring how consumers make purchases, AI systems are poised to gobble up the jobs transporting those prod America’s t ruckers, who number 1.8 million and have some of the few remaining, decent-paying jobs not requiring college degrees. Engineers at Google, Uber, et al. are rolling out prototypes for driver-less trucks that can crisscross the country without rest breaks, sleep, or days off.
behemoth’s focus on work the poster-child job disrupter in the retail economy, maxi many humans as possible, as soon as possible. Their massive warehouses are al plucking millions of prod- ucts from miles of shelves to fill online orders. More staged a PR show in August around its nationwide “Job Day” event to hire 50,000 human workers, it has been expanding its current swarm of full-time robots. In 2012, - gence developer, now named its own line of androids, and by August had added another 55,000 of these creatures to its 100,000-strong warehouse also pushing regulators to let it replace delivery workers with drones and is testing a - venience stores “staffed” almost entirely by AI systems. And it just swallowed Whole Foods grocery chain, loudly promising lower prices but whispering the method: re-
A child reaches out to a robotic dog displayed at the World Robot Conference in Beijing on Oct. 21. The author believes robots will soon dominate our lives — to ill effect.