Do robots really come to take over our jobs? The line has been drawn with latest AI breakthrough programmes, like AlphaZero, which is able to beat you in Chess, Go and Shogi, so human worries are never been as real, as they are today. Some still think, that we still have a long road to go, referencing new technologies, that are only implemented at the very beginning stages, like surgical robotics for instance. These people, however, forget, that they are already using automatic cashiers and train sales station assistants as a regular convenience, forgetting that not so long ago these tasks were performed by another human-being and was considered a fully obligated paid job. Is this true then, that every task robot performs is better what human abilities can achieve? With this question in mind, for all of you critics, believers, skeptics and dreamers, today we will talk about certain job skills in which humans can still give AI a good run for their money.
This one is a no-brainer – yes, machines can actually recognize your face on a photograph, but can they actually paint one? Computer programs are very effective at calculating a viable solution from a number of options, but when it comes to creating their own creative choice – they fail miserably. Creating something from scratch is still something that robots are yet to replicate since even we as humans do not fully understand what makes our brain spark with a new idea. Experts are getting robots to make some works of art, recipes and even inspirational quotes, but the end results are, well, mixed, to say the least. All of this means, that any job that is heavily based on a creative process, like musicians, writers, entrepreneurs, etc. can stop breathing heavily – they can safely bet for being untouched for a long while.
You would think, that if robots can make you a morning coffee, they would be able to handle other mundane routines? Think twice! We, as humans, consider walking and picking different objects the most basic and straightforward tasks that are out there, but for robots, this is actually a huge challenge. If you look at any robotic hands that are currently in development, you will notice how slow and awkward their movements are, not mentioning that their body parts are responding to touch efficiently, knowing neither if they are holding the object, or how much pressure should they apply to it. Similar can be said about the robot’s walking skills, where they seriously struggle with coping with uneven terrain or from a sudden gust of wind. This is not even mentioning the need for the battery power. So any physical skill-based work, from sport to crafting, can worry no more.
Even though robots can already analyze your face to tell how are you feeling, they fail to read your emotions in real time – even a small change of tone can confuse the program. There are certain AI applications already implemented in a medical field, that can more accurately detect diseases on a scan and follow your personal health conditions. However, I can hardly imagine a machine that would have been able to deliver bad news, better than humans do. Robots seem to hard-cold with their iron logic and calculations, no matter how friendly their pre-recorded automated voices may sound. Will machines be able to ever show empathy – remains one of the biggest questions in AI field, and as for right now, there is still no even remotely close prediction. This way, any job that requires empathy, like therapists, caregivers, and primary care physicians remain unlikely to be outsourced to robots any time soon.
In the classic science fiction movies, when a human would ask a computer to calculate a probability of risk, it would usually give him a 99 percent failure result. However, when the main hero would act anyways, he will succeed, no matter how bad the odds were. Of course fictional, but for me, it is still a perfect example of a person’s spontaneous nature, critical thinking and being able to deliver a positive outcome in a pressure situation. These are all connected to the ideas of creativity and empathy, we have already talked above, something that computer programs lack drastically, since they are only doing what they have been told to and only with the materials given, and cannot adapt to the quickly changing events. Robots can only deliver from data, where we as humans can deliver from “our guts”, something that certain situations seriously require. This brings me to the point, that every decision-making based work (like jury’s for instance), should be left with people since we can take to consider every aspect, that machines could not.
Last but not least, until robots will be creating another robot to install and upkeep them, humans will always be necessary. It is up to us, to plan, design, implement and manage robotics and AI technology systems. According to the software development company Elinext, a robot able to move or recognize simple commands will take at least two months of human work behind its code. And with such an uprising demand of new robots, there will be dozens of new positions, for people to keep these machines running. I mean hey, if robots will eventually take over, we will need more people to help maintain all of them. Thus, I do not think that any job, that is connected to technological maintenance, as constructors or engineers are at any risk any time soon.
People are better than machines in so many different ways. So the next time you will wonder if a robot will be serving you at the unemployment facility, just remember that we have always found ways to make machines work for us, rather than against us. But if you still deeply concerned about the future, and you consider robots as a threat, rather than help – start working on your soft skills. Work on your strategic thinking, problem-solving, empathy and creativity. This way, even if robots do take over, you can find yourself one of the only few quality-fitting robots for a job.
The author Abhishek Kumar Jha
Knowledge is Power