The Rise of AI will be Consequential for Blue-Collar Workers

AI & Automation

Artificial Intelligence or AI is coming after your livelihood and there’s nothing you can do about it.

From bookkeepers and drivers to machine operators, AI is increasingly replacing humans in various industries. For instance, have you shopped at a Walmart lately? Gone are the days where self-checkout is a small portion of the available points of sale. Now, self-checkout takes up almost 50% of available points of sale with an increasing number of stores implementing self-checkout lanes with full conveyor belts. Now, instead of having 10 cashiers on 10 different lanes, Walmart can utilize one human "monitor” to ensure that the machines are running smoothly - something we all know doesn’t happen too often.

We haven’t touched on what AI is have we? Here we go:

According to Merriam Webster, Artificial Intelligence is "the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” In the 1990s, AI commonly referred to as "computer vision,” was restricted to basic image and output related text recognition. Fast forward to current day and you’ll find a combination of advanced hardware i.e. smartphones and network enhancements like 4G (LTE), WiFi and 5G, serving as a strong foundation for AI to further penetrate our lives. Nowadays, Artificial Intelligence can defeat the world champion at a game of Chess, imitate human conversations, prepare and analyze financial records, write articles - not this article, but other articles - identify criminals in a herd of people and much more. We’re not at the iRobot stage of worry yet, but stress levels of blue-collar workers everywhere are slowly ticking up as they find more and more of their colleagues being replaced by Artificial Intelligence.

Who is at a risk?

Our society is quickly approaching a tipping point. Currently, AI is utilized in many ways to assist our current workflow, not function as the workflow. As noted in the Walmart example above, as AI becomes more widespread, humans will transform into the assistant. Instead of needing 10 cashiers at the point of sale, Walmart will just need 1 or 2 which means that there will now be 8 or 9 people without a job. See the problem? It doesn’t stop there. Here are a few popular positions that AI will begin performing with enhanced accuracy and speed at a fraction of the cost.

ATM’s aren’t just eating money anymore, they’re feasting on bank tellers.

Bank Tellers and Clerks - The financial sector is seeing an onslaught of disruptive technologies. Smart ATM’s aren’t just eating money anymore, they’re feasting on bank tellers. Mobile banking gives customers the ability to do anything that they would do at a physical location in the palm of their hand and Blockchain is set to replace the bank itself. With that said, AI can manage cash, provide and recover loans and reconcile a numerous amount of balance sheets in a fraction of the time it takes humans. We’re not saying banks are replacing humans, but banks are replacing humans.

Ridesharing - Take a moment to think about how much Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing services have changed the way we view transportation. Now take another minute to think about all of the awkward, forced conversations you’ve had with your driver.

Good news! Drivers are on the way out and robots are coming to a street near you. Pretty much every major tech company in silicon-valley and across the U.S. is working on driverless, AI-powered cars to make the drivers we love so much obsolete. Just as recent as this week, WayMo, a subsidiary of Alphabet, launched WayMo One, their autonomous, ridesharing competitor to Uber and Lyft. Speaking of Uber, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi believes that AI cars will decrease the operational cost of ridesharing significantly and help them reach profitability much earlier than expected. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how this stories going to end.

Journalism - As mentioned before, this blog was written by a human, but that may not be the case in the near future. This may be shocking to some, but AI ‘writers’ already exist. It works by probing tons of websites and compiling insightful data in minutes, however, they currently lack emotion and context. Surely enough, this barrier won’t exist forever and the more advanced machine learning becomes, the more likely that authors and journalists will transform from content creators to content moderators.

Human Intelligence: 3

Artificial Intelligence: 28

AI vs Human Intelligence - As a Falcons fan, I hate to reference this, but this is the part of the article where the Patriots (humans) begin making the unbelievable comeback in Superbowl LI.

As smart as Artificial Intelligence is, it’s still not smarter than you and it surely cannot display emotion and empathy like you - not in its present form at least. Yes, it can acquire data at immense speeds, but it doesn’t always know what to do with that data. For instance, what happens if a caller has a sore throat? Will AI be able to transcribe the scratchy and low voice of a human caller? Will it understand the reasoning behind the vocal issue? The answer is no. While a human will be able to discern the reasoning behind a callers vocal issues, AI would get stuck. This is an extremely low-level and simple example, but that’s the point. Human’s still and for a long time will be able to handle situations in a much more pragmatic way than Artificial Intelligence.


34-28: Humans (OT)

Our Verdict:

Ray Kurzweil’s "The Dawn of Singularity,” suggests that by 2025, autonomous cars will dominate the roads. By 2035, the manufacturing, agriculture and transportation sectors of the economy will be entirely automated. By 2045, AI will surpass human beings as the smartest and most capable lifeform on the planet and by 2099, AI will be able to create powerful planet-sized computers throughout the universe.

I’m sure by now you’re laughing, however, it comes from the same source that predicted that smartphones will penetrate the globe around this time period. In 2000, could you have imagined where technology would be almost 19 years later? Probably not. We’re all disappointed that flying cars aren’t likely to be our reality by 2020, but would you honestly trust the current batch of awful drivers throughout the United States to go airborne?

While workforce disruption has already begun, it's safe to say that this is just the beginning of AI displacement among blue-collar workers. As innovation accelerates and public anxiety increases, the government will have to take major steps to address education, job security, and basic income. While work efficiency may grow leaps and bounds, and the rich might get richer, AI will eventually be powerful enough to turn nearly everyone into displaced workers - even those among the elite.

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