Artificial Intelligence at workplace and ideas such as Universal Basic Income (UBI) will be shaping the future of work.
As a society, we are experiencing peak importance of work in our lives. It permeates our personal space as we have 24/7 access to our email and mobile phones. It becomes an exciting part of conversations between friends who build start-ups during their leisure time. Work often gives us a sense of meaning and a mission to accomplish.
However, according to many experts, the significance of work is about to drop dramatically, due to two major trends. These are a collective shift in thinking and rapid development of new technologies – especially Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The transformation towards working less
The shift in thinking is seen most clearly among the Millennials. They are the first generation that cares so much about the meaning and impact of their work – sometimes even more than about the money. Millennials also look for better work-life balance, flexible working times and possibilities to work remotely.
Ultimately, they don’t want to adjust their lifestyle to the work they do. They are looking for work which can be adjusted to their lifestyle.
The idea of diminishing the importance of work in our lives is not recent. In fact, philosophers and thinkers have been talking about ‘post-work’ society ever since the beginning of capitalism. As early as in the 19th century, Karl Marx postulated that in socialist society workers should be “freed from the monotony of a single draining job”. Around the same time, William Morris envisioned “factories of the future” in which a workday would last no more than 4 hours.
Nowadays thinkers emphasize that the working system is currently undergoing a severe crisis; we are working too much and oftentimes on irrelevant tasks. One of these voices belongs to David Graeber, who is a strong advocate of using technology to enable us to work less, rather than more. In his famous article, he stresses the problem of “bullshit jobs”, which are redundant or even harmful for the economy.
Some of those “bullshit jobs” include “managerial, clerical, sales and service workers”, but also mechanical tasks, such as dog-washers or pizza-deliverers. Those are precisely the jobs that could be potentially overtaken by Artificial Intelligence.
Artificial Intelligence at the workplace
Looking at the advancement of technology, it is clear that the possibility of working less is within our reach. Artificial Intelligence, in particular, has a big potential of reshaping our work economy.
“According to our estimate, 47 percent of total US employment is in the high-risk category, meaning that associated occupations are potentially automatable.” – Carl Benedikt Frey & Michael A. Osborne
Some jobs are more likely to be automated by AI than others. Those in “high risk” group include, according to Forbes, clerks, receptionists, customer service reps, analysts, marketers and even doctors and attorneys. Generally speaking, the manual and repetitive intellectual labor are first in the queue to be automated.
As for more human-based, creative and elaborate jobs – they will rather be supported by AI than replaced by it. An example of what it means in practice could be fewer, but more sophisticated teachers using AI in the classroom to provide evidence of their teachings. This kind of change wouldn’t necessarily render teacher profession redundant, but it might lower the number of job posts available and increase competition among candidates.
One thing is sure: work automation has already begun. We can see it by clearly by observing the divergence between generated economic value(which is growing) and total employment (which is falling). This means that the economy manages to produce more, even if the number of people involved in this production lowers. Clearly, this raise in productivity has been caused by employing machines, computers and (most recently) AI into the production process.
Knowing that the shift is already happening, there is no point fighting with AI’s presence in the job market. The key question is: what measures will be taken to reshape the economy accordingly?
Artificial Intelligence: prospects for the future
“There’s no economic law that says ‘You will always create enough jobs or the balance will always be even’, it’s possible for a technology to dramatically favor one group and to hurt another group, and the net of that might be that you have fewer jobs.” – Erik Brynjolfsson
With machine learning and collaborative AI projects such as SingularityNET, we have to accept that the demand for human labour will gradually lower. The first challenge is in distributing the human work that remains, so that more people can work fewer hours – rather than having the society divided to “overworking” and “unemployed” classes.
This distribution will require creating more opportunities for workers to learn new skills and transfer to the professions that will flourish with the development of AI. These will obviously include many new tech positions (e.g. in software development), but also create jobs and posts connected to teaching and interpersonal relations.
Experiments with Universal Basic Income
On one hand, it is great news that we will be required to work less in the future. But how do we make sure that everyone makes ends meet financially if the salaries drop together with the number of hours worked?
One of the proposed solutions to this problem which is being tested at the moment is the Universal Basic Income (UBI). Contrary to what many people think, this idea is not as simple as “free money giveaway” which incentivizes people not to work. Governments interested in the concept see it rather as support provided to make certain groups of people feel more secure. This is hoped to encourage them to actively look for the best work possibilities for themselves – rather than settling into unemployment.
The UBI experiment which is currently run in Finland is beginning to show good results of such approach. A chosen group of 2,000 unemployed people have been receiving an equivalent of 560 Euros per month, regardless of whether they find a job on top of that or not. This steadiness of basic income seems to stimulate people to pursue their creative and business ideas that have the potential to make them extra money.
This is very different from the traditional Finish benefit system, where any extra-paid activity (even temporary) might result in losing one’s social benefits. This often discourages people from looking for paid employment.
The Finish UBI experiment will last for two years in total, and it is hoped to help come up with a better social benefits system. One that would be operational when AI replaces much of the human labor and the risk of unemployment-related poverty grows.
The big shift in the world of work has already started. Fortunately, there is an expanding network of knowledgeable thinkers and experts who are trying to steer this transformation in the best possible direction.
If we learn how to implement solutions like UBI on a big scale and employ machines to enhance human potential rather than replace it, the development of AI might mean a bright future for the humankind. A future in which we won’t work that much for money, but will be able to focus our creativity on passions, family life, and social causes.
Fortunately or not, software development is not going to be dominated by robots anytime soon. That’s why at Ideamotive we keep working hard on our skills and creating digital products that meet highest industry standards.
We do AI-based projects, too. To see what is possible together, contact us to arrange a free Discovery Call and get a free estimate of your project.