December 12, 2017
Earlier this year, an article in IT Pro looked at the role that artificial intelligence may play in, ultimately, eliminating jobs.
The authors of the article addressed the argument that “AI will decimate the economy as we know it, causing mass unemployment,” and the proponents behind that belief – Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates.
“AI is the next logical and technical step in automation,” they wrote in presenting their argument. “Already, it’s automating formerly manual processes in the world of tech – supposedly taking the load off IT professionals. But if the majority of your job can be automated, what need does the business have for you? … Eventually, humans – or most humans – will be squeezed out of the IT department.”
It went on to suggest other jobs that are at risk, such as trained linguists, as well as taxi and bus drivers.
And could render them obsolete – or at least a quaint anachronism – within the next couple of years. “With self-driving vehicle technology, powered by complex smart city AI, the idea of having a human-piloted car could in the future be seen in the same way as we see horse-drawn carriage.”
The article gives equal time, however, to the other side of the argument.
They claim that “the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be much like the previous three. The Luddites and machine breakers were right – new technology did take their jobs, but the industrial revolution, as a whole, created new jobs that were unimaginable before it got underway.”
This is the camp that Alegion CEO Nathaniel Gates falls into.
Gates’ Alegion has played a role in employing hundreds of thousands of workers in the six years since its founding. The company has asked these part-time contractors to do everything from tagging digital images to making sophisticated judgment calls about sentiment. And while admittedly the pay is not exorbitant, workers have the flexibility to take on as much work as they want as well as pair other jobs with these money-making opportunities.
Gates also sees AI having a positive impact on the companies that embrace AI, or Machine Learning, initiatives.
“There will be new opportunities,” said Gates. “Initially, human workers will be required to support the training of both the AI and RPA software algorithms. These workers will be used extensively in the beginning to create training data sets for the machines that can serve as ‘ground truth’ for the model. This might mean tagging years’ worth of data to provide the machines metadata context for the decision making. After the initial training, an ongoing escalation function will exist to apply judgment or processing when the model does not have sufficient confidence in its answer.
“While this role will itself diminish over time, as the models improve, there will be other opportunities for a more flexible workforce outside the traditional confines of corporation.
“That’s why at Alegion we are not only paying attention to the needs of our corporate customers, but also exploring new and innovative ways to utilize our cloud workforce. We are creating opportunities for them to earn both a nominal and high-end wage based on their skill set and ambition.
“Inevitably, as with any industrial revolution, jobs will be lost. However, just like every revolution before, new and better opportunities will made available to a human workforce. Standing on the shoulders of AI and RPA, human workers will transition to identifying and implementing creative and wonderful uses of the technologies resulting in an overall better quality of life for the workforce. The farmers moved into the factories, the factory workers moved into the offices, the office workers will move into the cloud.”