(This is in furtherance to an earlier article on AI and Jobs. You may read it here.)
In the face of burgeoning automation, redundancy has become common. Many people must have seen their friends and relatives going through these excruciating lay-offs.
Why are these people losing their jobs? What is the reason behind job-losses after the effect of minimum wage hikes? And how can they make up for their obsolete skill-sets with the updated ones? Here’s my opinion.
From the end-user’s viewpoint, it is reasonable to say that we need ground-breaking technology, given the need for multitasking and the pressure to cut down delivery time. As we know, technology awareness is opening gateways to save expenses, as well as to earn extra income. But, could there be negative externalities to such ground-breaking technology?
Flip the coin
Every coin has two sides, but it is almost impossible to make it stand on its own. One side of the coin would prevail over the other if an external support is missing. Likewise, trading human intelligence off against artificial intelligence (AI) becomes absolutely crucial to creating and maintaining a healthy job ratio.
On the one hand, AI lacks creativity after a certain point. But on the other hand, human intelligence is blessed with the sense of innovation. Though AI and machine learning (ML) are lightening the burden of humans, it would be superfluous to depend on AI and ML for innovations. Only the human brain can bring changes to technology and ease the lives of people. So, the assumptions that AI is going to make millions of automatable jobs redundant are not indisputably true.
A Business Today article on “Artificial Intelligence Effect” describes the prospect of creating nearly 54 million jobs five years down the line. It elaborately outlines a detailed research, carried out by FICCI in collaboration with NASSCOM and EY, into the impact of automation on manufacturing and service sectors. Findings of the research revealed that 9% of the Indian workforce would land new jobs that are yet to come into existence, whereas 37% human resources would be in work that requires proficiency in avant-garde technology.
Is there a role for the government?
The dispute over the dire consequences of AI and ML can only be resolved if lawmakers decide to take robust steps toward aligning the minimum wage with a regulated intake of manpower, irrespective of the organization’s capacity to automate its operations. Obviously, if the minimum wage soars higher than the expense of a machine that can constantly carry out the same work in less time with improved efficiency, no organization would consider employing manpower. Rather, they would install machines to save their expenses. What possible solution must be put in place so that both parties can benefit from modernization?
According to statistics, the range of minimum wages varies throughout India. The bottom end of the bracket comes down to INR 160 per day and the top rate jumps up to INR 750 per day, much lower when compared with minimum wages of developed countries.
Scenario in developed and developing nations
Firms in developed countries might prefer automating low wage jobs, given the significant monetary benefit, thanks to a bloated minimum wage. Indian organizations, on the other hand, would prefer deploying humans to implementing machines because that seems fairly affordable to them. But, we cannot be heedless to the possibility of facing a scenario, where highly competent machine skills would be preferred over less-valued human skills that come at a higher cost.
Is there a solution?
Creation of jobs in AI and ML will take root upon edifying students from the very beginning. For this, India will need revamp its K-12 education system, with greater emphasis placed training in robotics, AI, rocket science, and agricultural technology. This might seem like a challenge given the lackadaisical demeanor of Indian legislators. Granted that there are some premium institutes that provide up-to-date education in India. But unfortunately, these institutes are beyond the reach of the underprivileged.
Truth be told, we need a far-reaching education system that can help burgeon and amalgamate the skills of students in artificial intelligence with their ever-growing human intelligence. With such a foundation, these students pioneer inventions that could bring significant change to mankind. On the face of it, inventors will be revered and highly paid, perhaps more than managers because every organization would be facing cut-throat competition in order to ensure long-term survival.
The sector that would be hit the most by automation would be manufacturing. Automation, with its ability to pump out consistent volume and quality of work, will replace skilled and unskilled labour. However, the safest of professions would probably remain unchanged. Education, services sector, law, and medicine with their highly humanized interface will survive the automation tsunami.
On the contrary, some of these professions might benefit from AI and ML. Doctors might get access to niche machinery that can perform critical procedures. Teachers might use hi-end technology to improve knowledge retention and learning outcomes.
Employability is possible, but …
No matter how significant the advances in machine learning, it will always have limits, unlike human brains. We are gifted with the power of imagination, which seems implausible for machines to achieve in the foreseeable future. So long as humans exercise their frontal cortex, they cannot be out of work. All they have to do is, change the course of thought and action and jobs will be created without a doubt.