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Will AI Make a Human Workforce Obsolete?

Some people are plain leary about AI. They associate the function of artificial intelligence with paranormal activity: like a robot's head floating in space dictating orders from high above, similar to the disembodied head in The Wizard of Oz

But that’s not quite it. According to Dr. Max Tegmart, a professor at MIT and the scientific director of the Foundational Questions Institute, AI is "Intelligence that is not biological."

I love simple definitions. Some of the most brilliant minds know how to break down complex information and make it tangible. AI can be described as a branch of computer science that applies programming tools to correlate with how the human brain works. 

Many worry AI will take over just about everything for us. But there are at least two reasons to be optimistic: the uniqueness of human perception and the unparalleled effectiveness of AI in certain areas, facts which create fodder for co-existence. Have you seen apps that ask you to upload your photo so AI can determine your age? A friend told me she got depressed because one AI said she looks like she’s 80 (she’s 50). 

Perhaps, in some matters, AI can never be as accurate as human perception. Inaccuracies arise for a multitude of reasons, reasons which aren’t easy to resolve. A machine will never have precisely the same capacity to interpret data as a human brain.

But it can exceed human capabilities in other cognitive areas. As such, AI can make many meaningful interventions in our society. Some systems are used in healthcare and partner with physicians and scientists to elevate advances in disease diagnosis and drug development. Others bring organizational efficiency to a whole new level.

So maybe humans can continue to hold an irreplaceable role in society as AI bolsters our productivity in other spheres.

Still, unresolved controversies abound. Some analysts predict that AI will create more jobs than it displaces. Not everyone is so optimistic.

2018 World Economic Forum predicted that more jobs would be lost than created by AI in 2022. The estimate was that although 58 million jobs would be created, 78 million workers would be cut or displaced by artificial intelligence.

Oxford Economics in the UK warned that robots could replace as many as 20 million manufacturing/factory jobs by 2030. CompTIA released an article in January of this year stating that AI would create 12 million more jobs than it replaces.

There will be a tremendous need for scientists who can write programs for AI. The O'Reilly Report broke down the need for AI-related positions by industry, with technology and computer applications leading the pack. Of course, jobs for AI are in every industry, including the media.

The recent SAG/AFTRA strike of actors, along with the Writers' Guild, led SAG/AFTRA President Fran Drescher to raise her concerns that actors' jobs will eventually go to machines. As she said, “We are all going to be in jeopardy of being replaced by machines."

I am a huge fan of Ms. Drescher and support the actors' strike but cannot fully agree with her assessment. I don't think that AI can ever replace the emotion of an artist, musician or actor. Art created by humans truly enhances life. I hope that AI and humans can work hand-in-hand to advance our culture, rather than have humankind overshadowed by machines.

Yet the late brilliant physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking had a sobering prediction about artificial intelligence. Dr. Hawking warned that if a so-called superhuman AI technology were to develop, albeit in many years to come, that could "spell the end of the human race."

This prediction from the prolific Dr. Hawking is quite sobering and has given me pause. 

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author(s).

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