While research in AI and robotics are leaping giants, studies are multiplying, which predict our “replacement” at work. In addition to the dystopian vision, the possibility of freeing ourselves of time to live better
Founded, the fear of the “replacement” of the man by the machine? According to Moshe Vardi of the Institute for Information Technology, 50% of the world’s population will be unemployed by robotics. And according to the firm Roland Berger, the “replacement” of human labor by machines will concern, in France, 42% of trades and 3 million jobs by 2025.
According to Berger’s study, because of the “digitization of the economy”, a “new generation” of robots will soon be tackling sectors hitherto immune to automation of tasks (because “more qualified “), from health (with medical diagnostic software) to autonomous taxis and trucks without drivers, to robot journalists.
The “robolution” is running, warns Bill Gates: “the replacement of drivers, servers and nurses by software is progressing. Over time, technology will reduce the demand for jobs, especially in less skilled trades … In 20 years, the demand on many qualifications will be lower.
Robots, soon everywhere? A “Fourth Industrial Revolution”? The signs are there. “Industrial robots” have already invested our factories for a wide range of repetitive tasks. But now, machines, which calculate faster than us, win other fields. Verb Surgical develops “robot-surgeons”. Amazon is preparing its delivery robots. The personal assistant “DoNotPay” plays the lawyers. And what about these personal assistance robots, who deliver drugs and threaten nurses? Or of these “receptionist robots”?
Should we dramatize? Robotics are still good: for example, taxis and trucks without drivers will prevent thousands of accidents. Nursing robots will help caregivers: instead of replacing them, they will discharge them “thankless tasks” and allow them to better accompany patients.
According to Forrester, robots “will not steal all our jobs, but will transform the way we work.” If automation will mean the loss of 16% of jobs, it will also create 9% of new jobs.
According to a study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), robots will affect “especially among white-collar workers (office work) and administrative tasks”. But “new jobs”, highly qualified, should also be created, especially “in computer science, maths and engineering”. The “creative destruction” dear to Schumpeter. Among the “new professions” already created, include “data scientists” and developers. Many jobs do not exist yet, but will be related to robotics and digital.
Robots will never replace a doctor or a nurse, because some skills remain inaccessible to the machines – especially adapt to the unexpected. Even in the case of autonomous trucks and taxis, the human driver should remain essential, as is the pilot of the airplane alongside the autopilot. Jobs requiring a minimum degree of human involvement still have a bright future ahead of them. As well as those requiring creativity or emotional intelligence.
“Free time” to “live better”
While experts, like economist Jeffrey Sachs, predict that “smart machines could only bring misery to all,” others believe that robots will give us more time to do more “rewarding” projects. According to David Autor, MIT’s economics teacher, “machines make our time more valuable. We are able to do more. ” And as Gabriel Colletis, professor of economics at Toulouse 1, writes, the robot will “complete the man”, allowing him to “devote himself to more cognitive tasks and mobilizing his experience.”
For Google co-founder Larry Page and convinced transhumanist, robots are an opportunity to “free up time” so that we can “live better”. Thanks to robots, we could work less, as in Norway (33 hours a week), or even … not work at all, and benefit from a basic income, or “technological dividend”.
Unemployment, basic income and inequality
Expert in AI, Jean-Gabriel Ganascia is not too worried: “the machines will replace us, but in unpleasant trades. AI will not put us all out of work: it will create new jobs. ” No “end of work” in sight, quite the opposite: “for industrial companies to remain competitive, we will put men in competition and we will ask them for more and more skills. All routine routine tasks will be performed by machines, but not those requiring the most imaginative and creative faculties. ”
The AI researcher does not believe, however, that automation will “free us”: it should instead create “a more unequal society than today with, why not, an idle class earning subsistence income, and a hyperactive class much better paid “. What will the “idle class” do with his days, with a subsistence income? Will she really enjoy life? There is the pros and there is the cons.