Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is a branch of computer science where human behavior is simulated in computers and machines. A.I. can also involve machine learning, where the computers are effectively teaching themselves how to better act or react in different situations.
This all sounds very impressive, and it is, but the true spectrum of possibilities with these technologies has yet to be fully seen or even discovered.
Currently, people are figuring out how to use A.I. to analyze huge amounts of data or help most effectively route delivery trucks or trains, but there is a growing fear that a robot revolution is going to rise up and take everyone’s jobs.
Is a robot going to take your job?
That’s a funny thought, but it’s not completely realistic – yet anyway.
A.I. and computers are getting smarter every day, and humans have figured out how to make them do some pretty amazing things. Anything from assembling cars to answering telephones can now be done by a robot-assisted by A.I. technology.
That’s all great, but what about your job? Are you next to be replaced by a self-teaching, computer-assisted robot?
Let’s look at some of the things that make jobs ripe for automation or better suited to be done by an old-school human.
Probably the biggest reason to automate (computerize) a job is that it’s repetitive.
That’s why we see so many smart machines doing things in manufacturing – putting pieces in place in the same order every time is something that a robot can do very well. Much the same for tasks like answering phones.
It’s pretty easy to teach a computer to do or say the same things in the same order every time. Things get trickier for AI when there are complicated decisions to be made or when the incoming information is abstract and difficult to interpret.
This is why we probably won’t see robot CEOs or analysts anytime soon: the human decision engine is needed to draw conclusions and communicate information with the additional ability to do it differently based on whatever the situation requires at that time.
No Brains Required
Part of what makes A.I. so tempting for so many businesses today is the promise that it will end up saving money and increasing efficiencies in mundane tasks. This is great for the things that don’t require any real thought but gets hairy when anything unpredictable is involved.
Managing people is a great example of an area in which A.I. doesn’t belong (yet). Another frequently cited example is sales and marketing. These professions probably rely on A.I. to help do their jobs with data and decision-making tools, but it’s unlikely we’ll be reporting to a robot boss anytime soon.
The Human Touch
While A.I. can generate some great information and can make routine tasks more automatic, there are some things that would feel wrong or downright scary if a robot were to be in control.
Medicine and more specifically surgery are an area where having a person at the helm is comforting. We could probably (maybe) train a computer to perform complex medical procedures, but it’s unlikely many people would feel comfortable going under that knife.
Some things have been done by people in a very personal way for so long that turning full control over to A.I. just feels wrong. It’s also important to note that, for as much as we hate going to the doctor or dentist, most people take comfort knowing that there is a human being with compassion and at least some level of concern taking care of them.
It can be very easy to go into a tailspin worrying about the robot revolution, but it’s important to remember how far away from anything resembling that situation we really are. Computers can do some pretty amazing things, but the best use of that technology right now is in assisting a good ol’ human being in doing his or her job.
It’s true that jobs in fields like data entry and manufacturing are likely to be the first for replacement by an intelligent machine, but we’re probably years (at least) away from that reality because the technologies are just so new.
If you’re in a field that you think may be on the chopping block, the best thing you can do would be to start looking at ways to build knowledge and experience beyond your current skillsets.
Many employers will pay for training programs, advanced degrees, or job shadowing opportunities, in order to increase your worth within the company.
The bottom line is that, while technology is becoming a much larger part of everything we do, it will be a while before we start seeing large swaths of our workforce being overtaken by robots.
We do see jobs where people are basically acting like robots, performing the same action repetitively without much variation, which means that these types of jobs are the low hanging fruit—ripe to be automated.
If you’re worried that you may someday be replaced by a smart machine, you should start looking at education and training programs that may be available to you at work now to ensure that you’re in charge of your own career.