In March, investment bank Goldman Sachs suggested in a report that Artificial Intelligence could destroy 300 million jobs worldwide (BBC article).
They are not the only ones thinking that way. Clearly, generative AI has been the investment story of the 2023, as US tech stocks like Nvidia have gained on the assumption that AI will change the world.
They will definitely change the workplace, if Goldman Sachs is right about destroying 300million jobs, soon there will be no careers left for people!
I should be worried as I write this. I am clearly under attack, with the robots and daleks from the TV shows of my childhood coming to get me at last. Worse than that, their writing is likely to be more grammatically correct than mine, be a bit more accurate, and will avoid those very peculiar British idioms which tend to confuse some non-British readers.
However, I refuse to be cowed by any AI threat. Like Daleks climbing stairs, there’s an incredible number of basic things robots just can’t do.
Here are a few reasons why us humans can be cheerful about the future of the jobs market.
They lack our charm. AI and robots are fantastic at doing automated tasks efficiently, but they’re still a bit weak at human interaction.
Anybody who has called an organisation, only to be greeted by an automated voice system knows how infuriating they are.
They listen, but they don’t understand and care even less. And there is usually a real-life human worker to pick up the pieces, just at about the time when you finally explode with rage.
In the most benign situations, robotic machines know how to destroy good humour.
A recent visit to a cinema highlighted this to Mrs. Expat and myself.
Two tickets could not be obtained at the cinema ticket office. Oh no, we were directed to one of a bank of new ‘automatic’ ticket machines.
It failed us miserably, but just took long enough for tempers to flare at the inept design of its human interface (The buttons and instructions, to real people)!
At this point we were offered help by a pretty, young lady, with a resigned smile which was enough to explain that ‘everybody has the same problem – I’m here to pick up the pieces, and I do this all day’. A quick look around showed that there was a lady wearing that same enigmatic smile assigned to each non-thinking ticket robot!
Also, robots simply don't do empathy
This means they can never replace doctors, therapists, teachers, counsellors, and a whole plethora of other jobs that need a human face rather than a cold hard machine.
I know we are not all particularly kind, caring and empathetic, but we all have times when we offer one of our fellow humans a kind word, a smile, or a simple nod of encouragement. Perhaps not often, and not for just anybody- but for the right person, at exactly the right time!
This is because, unlike robot AI, we have an innate ability to accept the peculiar, strange, illogical, emotional thoughts that are distinctly human.
Human beings are too unpredictable for robots to deal with.
Robots don’t do morals
Human beings may be morally flawed, but at least we understand what morals are.
A host of jobs involve making complex ethical judgements, obvious examples include healthcare, law enforcement, social work, debt collection and politics.
Humans can weigh the complexities of moral dilemmas, use their discretion and balance the rights of individuals against broader social responsibilities, prioritise the relative values of different ethical approaches.
Robots are much simpler. No ‘Women and children first’, no heroism or daring, no democracy, or ‘for the greater good’. With them it's either "Yes", "No" or "Exterminate".
Robots are too expensive
There is a reason why we don’t see a robot slaving away in every coffee shop, dentists surgery and supermarket. They cost a fortune to make.
All those moving parts needing repair when something goes wrong. A human with a toolkit, that’s what we will need!
Robots will never be everywhere because there are simply not enough processors to make it happen (and think about the electricity bill).
By contrast, us humans come ready made, ethical, moral, creative, empathetic and charming. True, we might need a bit of training, but we get there in the end.
Also, there are people everywhere. Globally, millions of us are looking for work at any given time. Who needs bots? People are more fun to be around, too.
Robots can’t cope with humans
Robots have one horrendous flaw-they can't deal with the unpredictability of human beings.
We see this clearly in driverless cars. They’d be perfectly happy, driving up and down empty roads, turning corners, reversing and the other ‘Driving 101’ things, but there are people on those roads, and people do the strangest things.
A recent story in Bangkok suggested that a Tesla was totally baffled by a local songteaw and hit the brakes! (A songteaw is a pickup truck used as a bus/taxi).
It is illegal in Thailand to even sit in the tub of a pickup, let alone stand on the back step whilst in motion, but in Thailand, this is routinely ignored by all from schoolchildren to grandmas.
The Tesla probably knew the law but failed to accommodate the people choosing to disregard it. That just wasn’t in the driverless car’s algorithms.
People are creative
Robots are model workers, and they never arrive at the office with a hangover, argue with the boss, thump their desk or get caught in a lusty grapple with their new girlfriend near the lifts. But there are loads of things we’d like robots to do that they can’t.
People have many faults, but we also have a huge capacity for incredible creativity and innovation. We can dream up new solutions, products, technologies, seemingly out of the blue.
Frank Whittle’s invention of the jet engine in 1932, Dr. Christiaan Barnards concept of heart transplants (first done in 1967), Alexander Graham Bell’s idea of speaking by telephone in 1876, Alexander Fleming’s use of penicillin in 1928 - These are just a few of the millions of odd, bizarre, crazy, innovative and incredibly valuable ideas people are capable of.
While robots are great at analysing data and patterns, they are limited by their programming and data inputs. They simply don't have our very human perspective, and they never take their turn making the tea!
Robots have their uses. We may use them to review medical scans accurately, repair sewers, model building safety parameters, and aid in the design of cars and aircraft.
But we humans will still be the ones in charge. No wonder they think we're scum. The problem is, we're unpredictable scum, and they can't handle that.