One of the biggest fears commonly associated with the robot revolution is the notion that certain jobs might - in light of new robotics technology - become entirely obsolete. As robots become more efficient and the technology that drives them more advanced, the likelihood of them working side-by-side with humans grows larger and larger. Of course, that development also brings with it the chance of robots replacing humans in a number of industries.
One of those, oddly enough, is news. Yeah, this topic is a bit of an uncomfortable one for me. After all, I'm dealing with the fact that, only a few decades down the line, what I do might become completely obsolete.
You might say that's absurd. After all, how can a robot write? How can a machine possibly mimic human speech, knowledge, and personality?
I've already discussed the notion that the coming robot revolution could completely overturn how our society functions...and how this would ultimately be a good thin. It robotics and artificial intelligence continue to develop at the rate they've been going, we could well find ourselves living in a veritable paradise; a world where robots handle all of the work that keeps society functioning and humans do...well, pretty much whatever they want.
Such a world could become a reality as early as 2040. Already, we're on the cusp of true artificial intelligence, which scientists predict could become available within a few decades, at most. At that point, the sky's the limit.
The transition to this new world will likely be anything but smooth. As the algorithms that drive AI become more powerful, employers will look to use them in a number of new ways. Unfortunately, this likely includes positioning machines in jobs traditionally held by humans. This brings me back to my initial point: at the moment, we've already got algorithms designed to track down news that's likely to interest readers. How much more difficult would it be to modify those algorithms to tell the news? Granted, you'd still need people to go out and track stories down, but the development of news-bots would cut a swathe into the overhead of many publications.
The frightening thing is that journalism is one career that's among the least likely to be impacted by coming technology...at least at first.
"During the industrial revolution," writes Kevin Drum of Mother Jones, "machines were limited to performing physical tasks. The Digital Revolution is different because computers can perform cognitive task too, and that means machines will eventually be able to run themselves. When that happens, they won't just put individuals out of work temporarily, Entire classes of workers will be out of work permanently."
"This isn't something that will happen overnight," he continues. "It will happen slowly, as machines grow increasingly capable. We've already seen it in factories, where robots do work that used to be done by semiskilled assembly line workers. In a decade, driverless cars will start to put taxi hacks and truck drivers out of a job. And while it's easy to believe that some jobs can never be done by machines-do the elderly really want to be tended by robots?-that may not be true. Nearly 50 years ago, when MIT computer scientist Joseph Weizenbaum created a therapy simulation program named Eliza, he was astonished to discover just how addictive it was. Even though Eliza was almost laughably crude, it was endlessly patient and seemed interested in your problems. People liked talking to Eliza, and that was only 50 years ago."
"Increasingly, then, robots will take over more and more jobs. And guess who will own all these robots? People with money, of course. As this happens, capital will become ever more powerful and labor will become ever more worthless. Those without money-most of us-will live on whatever crumbs the owners of capital allow us."
In short, before we enter into a new golden era of robotics, we might first have to endure a robot apocalypse.
One of the biggest fears commonly associated with the coming robot revolution is that robots might gradually take our jobs, replacing entire classes of laborers. As it turns out, that fear isn't so far-fetched as one might think. As robots gain more ground in the job market, they become more and more capable of replacing humans as laborers. Unless we fundamentally change how we look at comsumption and economics, we're in for a rough time before we reach the light at the end of the tunnel.