AI is quietly eating up the world’s workforce with job automation

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This article was written by Valerias Bangert, strategy and innovation consultant, founder of three media and published author.

Automation of AI tasks: the debate

The debate over whether AI will automate jobs is intensifying. AI critics argue that these statistical models lack the creativity and intuition of human workers and are therefore doomed to specific, repetitive tasks. However, this pessimism fundamentally underestimates the power of AI. While the automation of AI tasks already replaced an estimated 400,000 factory jobs in the United States from 1990 to 2007, with an additional 2 million underway, AI is now automating the economy of a much more subtle way.

Robo-writers

Take the example of writing assignments. AI can easily generate text indistinguishable from human handwriting. This kind of AI task automation replaces workers in ways largely invisible to the naked eye.

For example, the popular AI writing app, Rytr, has over 600,000 users and is growing at a rapid pace. In other words, over half a million people use Rytr alone to fully or partially automate their writing. It is estimated that there are just over a million freelance writers around the world, who increasingly compete with bots that don’t get tired, don’t require payment, and can generate an unlimited amount. of content.

The implications of this are serious: Classic projections for AI-induced job losses focused only on repetitive manual labor and blue-collar jobs. But white-collar jobs, like content writing, are just as vulnerable to the replacement of AI.

Robotic assistance

This trend is not limited to writing. AI is also automating jobs in customer service, accounting, and a host of other professions. For example, companies like Thankful, Yext, and Forethought are using AI to automate customer support. This discrepancy is often imperceptible to the customer, who does not know whether he is speaking to a biological intelligence or to a machine. The rise of AI-powered customer service has big implications for the workforce. It is estimated that 85% of interactions with customers are already processed without human interaction.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 3 million customer service representatives are employed in the United States. Many of these jobs are in danger of being replaced by AI. When jobs like these are automated, the question is: where do displaced workers go?

The answer is not clear. Many of these workers may be re-employed in other fields. But it is also possible that they find themselves unemployed and that the economy has difficulty absorbing them. This is prompting calls for a universal basic income, in which the government provides all citizens with a basic income to live on, to compensate for job losses due to automation.

Robot translators

Translation has, of course, been threatened with automation for a long time. However, the advent of large linguistic models makes human translators increasingly vulnerable to replacement by AI. In a 2020 research paper, a Transformer-based deep learning system was shown to outperform human translators. This study is important because it shows that AI translators are not only as good, but often better, than human translators.

In addition, the rise of AI translators is likely to have a negative effect on the salaries of human translators. As AI translation becomes more mainstream, the demand for human translators will decrease and their salaries will decrease accordingly. While many economists once worried about the impact of outsourcing on the white-collar workforce, the next wave of AI will have an even bigger impact, across industries.

In fact, as Forbes reports, the automation of AI tasks has already been the biggest driver of income inequality in the United States for the past 40 years.

Robot coders

Just over a year ago, an OpenAI beta tester suggested that AI could one day replace many coder jobs. At the time, OpenAI had not yet released its code generation engine, Codex, which now allows AI to write code autonomously in multiple languages. While Codex today is quite primitive, you don’t have to be a futurist to see how this technology could be used to automate many coder jobs in the future. As AI improves in understanding code and writing it, it will soon come to match and ultimately surpass human skill levels.

The implications of automating AI tasks

Just two years ago, the idea of ​​AI automating tasks like creative roles was science fiction, or at least relegated to a few early-stage companies. But now AI is becoming a tabletop issue for many companies. In other words, if you don’t use AI, you are at a disadvantage. The main reason for this is that the large language model, mainly OpenAI’s GPT-3, has become much better at understanding natural language.

The examples given so far are just the tip of the iceberg. AI automates jobs in virtually every industry and industry. While this may sound alarming, it is actually long overdue news. The point is, we live in a world where machines have slowly replaced human workers for centuries.

What is new is the pace of this automation. Machines are now getting faster, better and cheaper than humans at an alarming rate. As a result, we are seeing a fundamental shift in the economy where machines start to do the creative work of human beings.

Amid the opportunity to automate missing jobs, a new wave of AI-driven startups has emerged, all seeking to tap into the potential of AI. This AI gold rush is evidenced by the billions of dollars in venture capital funds that have been pouring into AI startups in recent months. In the third quarter of 2021 alone, nearly $ 18 billion was invested in AI companies, a record.

This influx of capital is a sign that investors believe in the potential of AI, and they’re betting that it will end up automating a lot of jobs, generating that value with machines instead. In the meantime, we must prepare for a future in which AI quietly eats away at the global workforce.

Valerias Bangert is a strategy and innovation consultant, founder of three profitable media outlets, and published author.

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