There is no denying the fact that significant change is upon us. A quick browse through headlines chronicles the ever-changing advancements of the self-driving car and virtual assistant. While this rapid progression may astound some, the truth of the matter is that this is just the beginning. Over the next five years, experts predict unprecedented advancements in artificial intelligence that will eliminate 6 percent of human jobs by 2021. Naturally, these statistics prompt one to wonder, “Is my job at risk?” While robotics have already left their mark on the automotive and manufacturing industries, the next steps lie in customer service and transportation.
The first few steps toward robotic customer service and virtual assistants have already begun. Many have embraced the convenience of using digital concierges like Alexa, Siri, or Cortana in their households. While these automated robotic systems seem quite simple and at times infuriatingly incompetent, soon they will be able to decipher complex situations. The most significant advantage that these digital concierges possess is the ability to access and analyze large amounts of data. These systems can access user email, calendar, browsing history, and purchases, and use it all to create a detailed user profile. Customizable assistance is then provided for each unique profile, providing a customer service experience unmatched by humans.
Imagine arriving home to find a delivery on your doorstep. Upon opening it you discover a pair of hiking boots for your upcoming camping trip. They are the exact size and style that you wanted, but you never made a purchase, your digital concierge did it for you. It sounds futuristic and perhaps a bit invasive, but nonetheless convenient. This is undoubtedly the future of the virtual assistant; taking care of your every need before you even ask. While the advantages of a truly personalized assistant are obvious, imagine the possibilities this affords to customer service based organizations such as retailers and banks. Creating customizable assistance for customers would propel customer service to levels never seen before, making human assistants a thing of the past.
In December, Uber road-tested self-driving cars for the first time on the public streets of San Francisco. With the race to roll out self-driving Uber cars officially in place, what does that mean for the average taxi driver? Well, it seems that the transportation industry is the latest that will fall victim to artificial intelligence replacing human employees. Unfortunately, self-driving cars mean long-haul truckers might have to find another job as well. Since paying for a trucker to travel cross-country hauling goods is expensive, companies will undoubtedly take advantage of the long-term cost benefits associated with utilizing artificially intelligent vehicles over human drivers. Although there have been more than a few wrinkles to iron out throughout the development of the self-driving car, it’s quickly becoming a reality. Taxi drivers, private car hires, truck drivers and public transit workers may all soon be without jobs. So, what does that mean for our economy?
Advocates for technological advancement will argue that displaced employees will simply obtain new roles centered around maintaining the technology that has replaced them. However, this involves an entirely new skill set rather than a simple transition of job titles. While some companies may provide training to assist in technological transitions, many workers in these industries will find themselves unemployed for the first time in decades. The ability for these displaced workers to find alternative positions will be challenging given the lack of new full-time job development in the current economy. Unfortunately, this problem will likely get worse before it gets better, as artificial intelligence replacement spreads to workers in other industries such as banking and healthcare.
It is crucial that new industries and jobs are created at the same rate as technology displaces workers and that technical training is provided for those willing to transition. While the future could be considered bleak by some in the customer service or transportation industry, it could be a blessing in disguise. As robots take over unskilled positions, humans have the opportunity to reach higher, earn more, and experience a better quality of life than ever before.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.