By David Wanderi
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.
I never imagined there would be a day where I could drive to a Taco Bell and have my order accurately taken and expeditiously delivered through a glass tube without any human interaction. That was until I saw Taco Bell’s two-story drive-through in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. They’ve named this phenomenon Taco Bell Defy, but I’m not sure what it’s defying outside of positively contributing to ending unemployment.
A fully AI-operated restaurant seemed like a fantasy even a few years ago. But technology is evolving at such a fast rate that fantasy is becoming reality. With this drastic change, certain jobs and industries will no longer be needed. That means a whole lot of people will lose their jobs.
Careers like bookkeeping, receptionists. retail services, and proofreading could be rendered moot soon. These professions will no longer be needed due to the growing capability of artificial intelligence.
As of recently, there has even been outrage over the ethical implications of AI-related work. This specifically extends to art. The excitement of art created by AI quickly died once people realized that AI art used data from human artists across history. That puts AI art in a unique situation. We must decide if the computer is merely being inspired by past art or is stealing from another artist. Before any definite decision, people came together across social media platforms to call for a virtual embargo.
So, is the outrage understandable? Or are people overreacting to the technology of the future? There are countless science fiction movies where evil robots end up enslaving humanity. Some of the hysteria towards AI can be attributed to that. People tend to be scared of what they don’t understand and most people can’t comprehend the possibility that a majority of retail jobs and food services will soon be done by AI.
Instead of trying to fight off the inevitable, we need to discuss the bigger problem. What will happen to all of the people whose careers will no longer be needed? There are approximately 20 million people who work retail jobs and five million people who work in the fast-food industry. Although AI will be making certain experiences easier, it will also be eliminating jobs without providing any alternatives.
We shouldn’t be worried about AI in society. However, we should learn from the past when large industries have been uprooted. For example, the automotive industry in the Midwest fell apart for a plethora of reasons. One major factor was automobile manufacturers decentralizing production in a bid to crush union membership. As a result, new innovations fell and the US auto industry went from the best in the world to laughable.
Many large corporations will always do their best to cut costs where it is possible. The option of not needing employees will certainly be an option many will choose.
So, how long will it be before millions of people are out of careers?
When estimating the timeline of service jobs being fully automated, it isn’t as grim as you’d think. The sober reality is that it will take a good number of years for things to drastically change. One factor is the cost. Many businesses still cannot afford to implement something similar to Taco Bell.
Another major factor is legislation. With AI taking over many jobs, many implications will follow. Going back to the art argument, where is the line between copyright infringement and taking inspiration with regards to a computer? Society has some ways to go before AI’s will be allowed to write feature films and songs. Lastly, there is a risk involved with everything and AI isn’t exempt.
The four main risk categories are data-related risks, AI/ML attacks, testing and trust, and compliance issues.
There’s a long way before many jobs are replaced by AI, but we shouldn’t try to fight it. Instead, we should be prepared for the shift in society. There are still industries where AI won’t be replaced in the majority of our lifetimes. Those industries include STEM, creativity, management, sciences, and much more. The future is inevitably going to be more advanced, too. Thus, the best thing you can do is equip yourself to be in a position where you won’t be replaced by a computer.
I sympathize with people who still believe the coal industry or automotive industry will return to their past days of glory. Unfortunately, they won’t. Many people weren’t able to adapt in time for the major shifts. Communities collapsed, people went without work, and the few that stayed held onto a false sense of security.
In no way am I blaming these people for their unfortunate circumstances either. Much of the fault falls on these companies and industries that left America to outsource their work for cheaper labor. Since we know these corporations prioritize their finances over their workers, we should learn from the past and not be married to obsolete careers.
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