One of the most pressing technological and ethical questions across most industries – including automotive – is when Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots will replace humans. Enter AI, and suddenly everyone thinks of Skynet, from the Terminator!
Certainly, humans are afraid of losing their jobs to robots, which are great at repetitive tasks based on a set of rules and code. But AI and robots aren’t something we, as a society, haven’t already encountered. In automotive manufacturing, robots dominate assembly lines. And, artificial intelligence is making decent inroads at integrating itself into our lives via in-vehicle navigation systems, not to mention voice assistants built into our smartphones and various in-home technology.
The truth is that, while AI and robots may replace some jobs, they will also create new opportunities and careers.
In the early 1900s, John Philip Sousa predicted that the invention of the phonograph would lead to the demise of music. If we reflect on the impact of the phonograph, it has been wide-ranging, such as preserving digital replicas of music that otherwise may have been lost forever. This has allowed music to be popularized beyond the concert halls it was originally played in, even leading to the social revolution of the 70s and hip-hop in the 90s.
Ironically, all of this came from an invention created by Edison to get rid of stenography and to make business communications more accurate. Also, as Clayton Christensen espouses in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma, inventions initially target applications that are niche-based, but eventually, as the invention matures, and price-performance and reliability improve, they find large-scale use. However, this is hard to predict.
When AI matures it will be one of the biggest disruptive forces ever unleashed on mankind. And, like every other disruption, will have unpredictable consequences. This disruption will surely affect the drivers for Uber and Lyft, and governments shall have to play a role in the resettlement.
That being said, in the end, like the effect of the phonograph, the far-reaching consequences of such disruption will create new industries and new employment that will far outnumber the jobs it takes away. Unfortunately, the transitory period will be painful, and governments and philanthropists will have to plan a way out for the displaced. The capitalistic system that we work in will continue to develop this technology because all the incentives by which these companies are measured are enhanced by AI.
Just like “coding” is all the rage right now, in-demand skills will always shift with technology. Robots and AI aren’t the end of society. While they might cost some jobs, they will also create more by necessity.
The key to success isn’t standing around worried about losing a job, but rather determining which skill sets you should consider adapting to our ever-changing world. Just as society has done many times in the past.