Experts believe this could be the final straw driving society towards a work-free life From assembly line robots, to ATMs, to self-checkout terminals, each year automated systems take over more jobs formerly held by humans. Now, experts predict that many professional jobs are at risk. Teachers, doctors, and governing officials, could all be replaced by intelligent systems in the near future.
Could teachers become automation’s next victims? Economist Kim Shin-hwan at South Korea’s Hyundai Research Institute says, “By 2015, robots should be able to assist teachers in the classroom. By 2018, they should be able to teach on their own, and this will cause many teachers to lose their jobs.”
Will the quality of education remain the same, or might it even improve with robot teachers? Although the first robot models may appear clumsy and crude, experts predict future versions arriving in the 2020s will be fully capable of performing all the functions of a human teacher, and potentially a lot more.
In healthcare, computer programs are already wielding a positive impact. ‘Smart’ software can now assist doctors with patient diagnosis. An automated system called the Artificial Neural Network helps Mayo Clinic physicians diagnose patients more accurately, and reduces the dangers of human error.
In addition, the much-hyped nanorobots, tiny machines that can whiz through veins replacing aging and damaged cells with new youthful ones, expected by the 2030s, could become the ultimate automated medical tool, keeping patients healthy 24/7, and eliminating much of the need for doctor supervision.
From becoming world chess champions to winning on Jeopardy, artificial intelligence systems are proving they can compete in our world. With electronic systems and robots assuming more and more jobs, even politicians, judges and police may soon join those who’s duties are taken over by automation.
The recent U.S. Congress debate over deficit reduction exposed the inadequacies of human governing. Democrats and Republicans refusing to consider each other’s positions placed America at risk for a lower credit rating assessment, which eventually became reality, causing world financial markets to plunge. Futurists believe an artificial intelligence reasoning system, circa 2040s, would have averted this danger.
Naysayers, though, see allowing machines to make choices for humans as a threat to our dignity. They argue that we should not let computers replace positions such as law makers, judges, or police officers.
However, on a recent PBS News Hour interview, National Science Foundation consultant Pamela McCorduck countered that “I’d rather take my chances with an impartial computer,” referring to conditions where she would prefer to have automated law makers, judges, and police that have no personal agenda.
Cisco Systems analyst Dave Evan predicts that robots with advanced artificial intelligence could one day replace most workers. Although today’s unemployment hovers around 8-to-10 percent, this is mild compared with what we can expect as robots become more mainstream. It is estimated that by 2030, 50 million jobs will be lost to machines, and by 2040, robots could grab more than half of all human jobs.
So what’s the solution? Futurist Marshall Brain in his Robotic Freedom Blog examines the problem and offers suggestions that would provide humanity with all the benefits from tomorrow’s advanced automated systems, while protecting us from the financial devastations of unemployment.
Brain believes that America should create a $25,000 annual stipend for every U.S. adult, which would be phased in incrementally over two-to-three decades. The stipend could be paid for through a variety of possibilities that may include ending welfare programs, levying a tax on automated systems, adding a consumption tax, allowing ads on currency, creating a national lottery, and authorizing a tax on emails.
Equitable wealth distribution such as this stipend, would allow consumers to spend without fear of losing their jobs. This increased spending could drive the economy into its biggest boom ever.
How might people spend their extra time in a world where work is no longer a part of everyday life? Some may further their education. Those who enjoy traveling could visit distant points on Earth, or hop a Virgin Atlantic ship to the ISS; or leave Earth permanently for communities planned on Moon and Mars.
Arrival of human level automated systems marks a transformative time in history. These automatons promise a utopian future as they create an incredible world filled with leisure and adventure for everyone.
Dick Pelletier was a weekly columnist who wrote about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He passed away on July 22, 2014.
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