Though robots are better than people at certain jobs, that isn’t a reason to panic.
Artificial intelligence and worker displacement
As industries continue to digitize, people are understandably worried about losing their jobs.
The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece on how robots are disrupting the retail industry, focusing particularly on Wal-Mart’s recent changes. With the installation of self-checkout lanes and efficient machines, some of the U.S.’s 16 million retail workers have already been displaced by artificial intelligence, but that makes sense.
On the one hand, it’s terrible news for the people who are losing their jobs. It’s undoubtedly unfair that dedicated workers are being forced out of their positions just because a computer can do their job better, but there’s no way around this process.
Companies can’t resist following the natural progression of the industry. It has happened with manufacturing and agriculture jobs, and now it’s happening to the retail industry. Though it’s alarming as the transition happens, it’s usually better in the long run.
Shifting man-powered industries
When certain jobs become obsolete, new industries naturally manifest. As service industries evolve, workers will just be trained differently for the future.
An article from the Harvard Business Review discusses how we must prepare the next generation to work in tandem with technology, rather than against it.
Artificial intelligence always seems to be growing both faster and slower than anyone expects it to, so we must prepare to grow with it and supplement its shortcomings.
Integrating coding into student curriculums would be a good start since computer science will be relevant in their future careers. There’s no way that workers can navigate the modern workplace without understanding basic technologies, such as computers, and that understanding will need to grow at the same rate that technology does.
Teaching students computer science could also be a great way to integrate real-world math into their course load. (I know I’ve never used anything that I learned in AP Calculus, and I would certainly be better off if I knew some basic coding.)
Coding also can be taught in different contexts, as the HBR article points out. It’s a creative activity that can tie in with endless hobbies, from robotics to graphic design, and that’s definitely worth exploring.
We also need to focus on developing human skills that robots cannot match or mimic yet. Critical thinking and creativity are two of many intrinsically human skills that we can cultivate and build upon.
Takeaway: Robots will never replace humans
Artificial intelligence can certainly be advanced, but robots can only do what humans program them to. It’s very difficult to teach a robot to be adaptable or sentient because robots function on algorithms rather than intuition.
Jobs may shift, but that doesn’t mean they’re disappearing. New industries will emerge, and we’ll always find ways to integrate and utilize human workers.
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