Robots are coming to take our jobs, and not just those of us who work in fast food or manufacturing. The truth is, almost all jobs are threatened in one way or another.
Okay, that may be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s not too far from the truth. A more accurate description would be that artificial intelligence (A.I.), which has been sparking fear among low-skill workers and science fiction enthusiasts for decades now, is finally becoming smart enough to compete. While many in the business community are looking forward to industries with cheap labor and less human resources work, the working class is facing a future filled with uncertainty. If jobs disappear, or are replaced with artificial labor, what happens to those workers, and the economy?
There’s a point at which a robot becomes more than just a tool in the human arsenal. Robots may perform specific functions — such as lifting objects, or repeatedly performing the same action over and over. But A.I. describes something that can actually think for itself. That is, it can make decisions, and learn from past mistakes. With this ability to “think,” artificial intelligence becomes much more valuable than simple automated mechanical labor, and as Google explains, has much more widespread commercial application.
What kind of commercial application are we talking about, and what jobs could ultimately be threatened by artificial intelligence? There are many, but some are more surprising than others. Read on to see five commercial applications of artificial intelligence you may not have expected.
Did you know that many of the news articles you read every day are not written by human beings? This one not included, but it’s true. More and more writing is being offloaded to A.I., which are capable of putting together articles that are not much different — or even discernible — from what professional writers and journalists create.
Right now, A.I. is handling the writing for things like earnings reports, and other business documents. Of course, humans still have a big edge, and not all news and journalistic efforts will be shifted to non-human workers. But journalism and news coverage may be one of the more surprising applications we have found for artificial intelligence.
At some point in the near future, we’ll all be handing over our car keys to computers. We all know about driverless cars, but it really goes much deeper than that. Commercial trucking companies, airlines, trains — eventually, it’s likely that artificial pilots will be in control of them all.
This, of course, will displace thousands, if not millions of workers. Not to mention the law enforcement agencies, legal professionals, and auto industry workers who may run into trouble from autonomous consumer vehicles. Once that driverless technology is adopted on a mass-scale, society could benefit from reductions in traffic gridlock, less wasted fuel, and of course, more leisure time during our commute.
3. Emergency services
When you think about it, allowing an A.I. to handle our emergency services makes a lot of sense. For example, why put human firefighters in danger when we can just send in our metal-and-silicone friends? After all, machines can resist higher temperatures, don’t need to worry about smoke inhalation, and can use lasers and radar to better navigate in close-quarters, where as people may not be able to see.
Though firefighting is the first that comes to mind, the technology could also be applied in many other areas. Driving ambulances, handling dangerous law enforcement situations, and even cleaning up hazardous leaks or spills are prime examples. The Navy has already started experimenting with this technology on the water, and others are developing it for use in cities as well.
What happens when we apply A.I. to the world of music? You probably end up with a number of chart-toppers. At least, that’s what some in the industry are thinking. “We are quite close now to (programming computers to) generate nice melodies in the style of pop composers such as Legrand or McCartney,” Francois Pachet, of Sony’s Computer Science Lab in Paris, France, told The Atlantic. If you found out that robots were creating some of your favorite songs, would it ruin things for you?
This is where the music industry is heading. There are even bands of drones that can throw down some pretty awesome covers of classic songs. Technology has also been able to resurrect dead stars, like Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. Imagine if we found a way to give those holograms the ability to think? Now there’s an interesting thought.
5. Customer service
When you’re frustrated with a billing error, all you want to do is talk to a human being, right? Soon, that may not even be an option. Businesses are adopting A.I. en masse to handle their customer service departments, and as you may have guessed, that threatens an awful lot of jobs. Automated online assistants are already pretty widespread, and natural language processing technology is on its way to being perfected.
With the technology improving, it’s only a matter of time before call centers become a thing of the past. Rather than screaming at a fragile, low-paid human being, artificial customer service reps look primed to become the new target. There is still a ways to go before the technology is ready to be adopted across the board, but it’s on the way.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger