IN less than 30 years, the majority of the human population of the planet could be obsolete. That’s according to the latest research, conducted by ‘futurologists’, on behalf of global job search website xpatjobs.com (www.xpatjobs.com).
Their research predicts that by 2040, cars will be driven by Google robots, high street shops will simply be showrooms for online retailers, and call centres will be staffed by intelligent droids.
But those reaching retirement in the next few years still have cause for concern. The robots are already here. According to Neil Jacobstein, Head of Artificial Intelligence (AI) at Singularity University, in Silicon Valley, AI agents are already involved in every aspect of life.
He told the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25000756), that AI is already embedded in every aspect of daily life, and vital to the fields of medicine, law, design and manufacturing. Mr Jacobstein warned that the algorithms that power many computer decisions are becoming smarter, and will eventually make human interaction no longer necessary.Mr Jacobstein even predicts computers will have overtaken human intelligence within the next decade.
The world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, China’s Hon Hai, has announced that in the next three years it intends to create a robot manufacturing plant to build replacements for 500,000 human workers. The company, which assembles products for Apple, including the iPhone and iPad, as well as Sony and Nokia, already has 10,000 robots working at its factories. See http://singularityhub.com/2011/12/13/chinese-company-continues-plan-to-replace-workforce-with-500000-robots/ for more on this.
Most worryingly for the 500,000 workers being replaced, and the millions of others that will inevitably follow around the world, is that not working for a living, means not having a wage, and therefore the resources to feed and clothe yourself.
Nobel-prize winning physicist, Stephen Hawking, predicts that AI could be the worst thing to happen to humanity, and could eventually spell the end of humanity (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2618434/Artificial-intelligence-worst-thing-happen-humanity-Stephen-Hawking-warns-rise-robots-disastrous-mankind.html).
Science fiction writers, some writing many years ago, predicted a world in which robots would free up humans to enjoy more leisure time. However, the more pessimistic of these writers predicted a world in which the majority of humans will be surviving on social security payments, whilst the owners of the vast corporations that manufacture the robots will become enormously wealthy.
According to The Economist (http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21594264-previous-technological-innovation-has-always-delivered-more-long-run-employment-not-less), there is already a long-term trend towards lower levels of employment in many rich countries. According to the article, the number of American adults participating in the labour force has recently hit its lowest level since 1978.
In May this year, Wired Magazine published an interesting article, detailing areas of work that could be most under threat from the rise of the robots. They include education, writing, the military, medicine, driving and the legal profession. Go to http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2014/05/features/robots-after-your-job to find out if your job is under threat.