Two generations ago, one could expect to be employed for their entire life. At least two of your grandparents probably started the first day of the job when they were less than twenty five years old and retired at sixty five or older. That would be unusual today. Few people can expect to have the same employer in five or ten years. Most people can expect to be “let go” at some point, laid off, or lose a job because of an economic downturn or advances in artificial intelligence (AI).
In the last century, technology has already eradicated many jobs: daguerreotypists, telephone switchboard operators and telegraph operators, knocker-ups (they taped on your window before alarm clocks were invented) and movie projectionists are a few. Technology has transformed every job, sometimes with great resistance. The term luddite comes from the English mill workers, who threw their shoes into the cotton gins (sometimes credited with bringing on the industrial revolution) because the new technology was replacing their jobs. Today it's not just factory workers who are seeing technology, in the form of AI, replacing or changing their jobs.
It is now less common to buy a railway or airline ticket from a person than from a kiosk or online platform, pay a toll to a toll booth operator than a machine, and get customer service from a live person rather than a bot. A few generations from now, people will probably have to look up what toll booth operator means the same way we do for daguerreotypists today.
AI is replacing manufacturing jobs in every industry: the auto, electronic, chemical, pharmaceutical and metals industries, retail and business to business, restaurant and transportation industries, as well as highly skilled jobs in the business, science, medicine, law* and psychology**. Eventually, AI will likely be a large part of every job, just as digital technology is today, or, as feared by some, In the current economic paradigm, AI may altogether replace humans in the workforce.*** Unemployment causes unhappiness and can leave a person with feelings of anxiety, dejection and depression for many years, even after they find a new employment.****
If AI causes unemployment on a massive scale, humans who rely upon jobs for support will need a new economic paradigm.. One way to prepare for unemployment in your own life is to change your perspective of what work is.
*Acemoglu, D., & Restrepo, P. (2019). Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets. Journal of Political Economy, doi:10.1086/705716; Lo, Y., Woo, C. & Ng, K. (2019). The necessary roadblock for artificial general intelligence: corrigibility. Easy Chair Print, 846. Retrieved from https://wwww.easychair.org/publications/preprint_download/gRlw
** Gratzer D, Goldbloom D. Open for Business: Chatbots, E-therapies, and the Future of Psychiatry. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. 2019;64(7):453-455. doi:10.1177/0706743719850057
***Harari, Y. (2016). Homo Deus. Harvill Secker.
**** Clark, A., Flèche, S., Layard, R., Powdthavee, N. & Ward, G. (2018). Origins of Happiness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Posts written by the People of the Happiness Alliance & our Friends.