As Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, explains, we’re in the midst of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, after steam power (the first), electric power (the second) and digitization (the third). The fourth, which incorporates AI and robotics as well as other technologies, will have an even greater impact.
Of course, most new technologies create new opportunities at the same time as they eliminate old jobs, but there is rarely a perfect correspondence between these two forces. The people whose jobs go away aren’t easily retrained for the new jobs and that can lead to anger and social unrest — and, in the short term, massive inequalities, across both geographies and groups of people.
It’s essential to prepare for change by keeping abreast of new technologies, both in general and in your specific field. Learn as much as you can and keep your skills up to date.
2. AI will replace repetitive tasks more than jobs
Recent studies, including one from McKinsey and another from the OECD, have poured cold water on earlier estimates that nearly half of American jobs are at risk of being eliminated by AI.
Newer studies look at specific, repetitive tasks instead of whole jobs and find that, for most of us, some fraction of the work we do each day could be done better with AI. But for most jobs, computers aren’t going to replace everything we do.
For the majority of us, AI will take away the most repetitive and boring tasks, enabling us to spend more time on creative problem-solving and on the parts of our jobs that involve complex human interactions and relationships.
To help prepare for this future, investigate AI-powered tools in your own field. Learn how to use them and exploit them to increase your own productivity.
3. Middle-skilled jobs will be hit hardest
The job market will not, however, be untouched by automation. The OECD estimates that 9% of US jobs are in principle automatable. If that happens, it’s going to have the worst effect on people with mid-level skills. Both mid and low-level jobs will be the easiest to automate, but there’s a stronger business case for replacing mid-level workers with machines because they are more expensive.
If the people replaced by AI and robots aren’t retrained well, they’ll be forced to apply for low-skilled jobs, leading to an oversupply of workers at that level and depressing those wages even further.
At the same time, there will be fewer people qualified for high-skilled jobs, increasing wages in that segment. This dynamic, if unchecked, will hollow out the middle of the job market and lead to even greater polarization.
To mitigate the impact, society needs to provide education and job placement opportunities for those most affected by automation.
4. Opportunities will be unequally distributed — at first
Over time, jobs will return. But they won’t be the same kinds of jobs and they will, in all likelihood, appear in different parts of the country to the jobs that automation has destroyed.
For instance, researchers Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo have examined the impact of robots on jobs in the US. What they found is a strong regional impact: for every new robot introduced in a particular metro region, an estimated 6.2 jobs were lost in the same geographic area. But when examining the country as a whole, they found that the impact was about half or equivalent to three workers losing their jobs for each additional robot.
One possible explanation is that the automation of industrial jobs in the Midwest and US south is partially offset by new types of jobs in coastal cities.
But that’s no comfort if you’re living in one of the states with a net decline in jobs. Those who have lost their jobs need retraining and we need an education system that prepares all our children, not just a privileged subset, for the jobs of the future.
We also need to acknowledge the uneven geographic impact of automation and take steps, as businesses and collectively as a society, to increase opportunity in geographic areas that are affected adversely.
5. Technology designers have responsibility
The ethical mandate is not just in education, but also in the design of technology products themselves. Autonomous technologies are not value-neutral with respect to the jobs they impact.
Carnegie Mellon robotics professor Illah Nourbakhsh makes the case in a recent podcast that the makers of robots and AI software need to think ethically. Are they creating technologies whose sole purpose is to replace human workers or are they facilitating human productivity and happiness?
Designers, computer scientists and CTOs all need to understand the ethical implications of how we create and use robots and AI. This needs to be a topic of discussion among business leaders on national and global stages. Merely calling for a universal basic income is sidestepping the question: technology makers need to account for human dignity and work in their very products.
6. The long-term trend can be positive — if we make it so
Eventually, after the Industrial Revolution, there were at least as many jobs as there were before and they were better ones. The net result was an increase in productivity and in the number of people employed, which raised overall wealth. But that wasn’t a foregone conclusion.
In the 21st century, we’re facing a massive change in the technologies and types of jobs available, similar to that faced by our grandparents in the early 20th century. Like them, we can’t be certain that both productivity and employment will rise.
We, as a society, need to make the commitment to guide our technologies responsibly and to capitalize on the prosperity we are creating, just as those who came before us did. That way we will ensure that AI technology creates opportunity for all, not just for a lucky few.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.