The dawn of the Cyber Age is right at our doorsteps. Artificial Intelligence – the ability for computers to learn, see and communicate exactly like humans – is slowly but surely changing our world. It appears that robots will one day take over our jobs and there would be widespread unemployment eventually. But is the future truly as bleak as it seems? Or could it be brighter than what we perceive it to be?
McKinsey states that by 2030, it is likely that robots will replace up to 30% of current human jobs. With technology disruptions happening in virtually every industry, from AI chatbots to autonomous vehicles, it seems as though it is a matter of time before our opportunities for employment are automated away. Even sectors such as the legal profession, which typically require a heavy dose of human interaction, are slowly being disrupted and transformed.
However, to truly comprehend this new dawn of the AI age, we need to look at the past.
When the Industrial Revolution first started, people then faced a similar situation as we are facing now. The threat was that machinery was replacing all the manufacturing jobs that many held. Similarly, when personal computers entered the market, many feared that computers would take over their jobs. But in both cases, the advancement of technology led to the creation of even more jobs than those that they replaced. New sectors were created as machines needed human operators and builders, while computers require humans to constantly code and innovate.
The truth is that machines and computers, far from making us obsolete, make things easier and better for humans. Despite replacing many jobs, these advancements only replace low-skilled jobs and forces humans to upgrade themselves. Many shifted to jobs that require greater expertise and skills, adapting to the new norm. It allowed us to skip past repetitive and mundane work that held us back from exploring more complex and challenging problems. It enabled us to constantly innovate to create new solutions that make our lives better. Hence, with this third wave of technology, it is likely that the advent of AI will have a similar impact to society as machines and computers have had prior.
However, what will the future look like? Let’s explore some potential scenarios that will likely happen as a result of Artificial Intelligence.
#1 Autonomous Vehicles
Imagine a future where your car no longer requires a driver. It would simply be an empty shell with wheels that transport us from place to place. While the truth is that it will replace the jobs of many who drive for a living, it will also bring about greater productivity and decreased stress levels. Taking a car would be akin to taking the MRT: Instead of having to concentrate on the road and worrying about getting into an accident, you would be able to enjoy reading your newspaper, watch your favorite Netflix series or even tidy up your presentation for your class later.
#2 Retail Robots
How about the retail sector? Traditionally, being a retail assistant is a thankless and underappreciated job. Faced with unreasonable customers, the repetitive action of stacking clothing and long, inflexible hours, it is no wonder the retail sector faces difficulty in attracting and hiring staff. In the future, these could all be transformed by AI retail robots. An entity who will never be bothered by long hours or the repetitive nature of the job. One who would always treat customers with politeness. The perfect assistant to support your every shopping need. This will likely make your shopping experience more enjoyable and efficient, increasing your satisfaction levels. Likewise, current retail assistants would be able to spend their time more meaningfully, upgrading themselves to be employed for higher skill jobs.
#3 Cyber Lawyers
Lastly, we look at the legal sector, where Artificial Intelligence has also been making waves.
In the U.S, a study was conducted in which top corporate lawyers were pitted against an AI system. The challenge was to review contracts and spot holes in its drafting. The top corporate lawyers took an average of 92 minutes to go through an entire contract, with an accuracy rate of 85%. The AI system did the same, in a mere average of 26 seconds, with an accuracy of 94%. Given that lawyers charge hourly rates, imagine how much cheaper and quicker it would be if you asked an AI system to review your future contract instead. While it is likely that human lawyers will lose some of these business opportunities, the supply of lawyers may then be channeled into legal issues which require greater skills and complexity.
Hence, while AI will undoubtedly replace many jobs in the future, it will arguably create greater capacity for firms to take on more complex problems. This would, in turn, result in greater demand for higher skilled human workers in those areas. Arguably, the new revolution has already begun, with skills in tech the most in demand at present.
Moving forward, we need to prepare for this wave of disruption that will sweep the world. It is time to educate ourselves further, to gain greater knowledge on the new fundamental skills of coding and to integrate technology not just into our lives, but into our own education. The world is ever changing, and we, to remain relevant, must change as well.
Artificial Intelligence will take over the world. The question then, is – are we prepared for it? For those who continue to educate themselves, take heart, for it is not a bleak future that lies ahead, but a brighter and better one.