There are many journalists, authors, researchers and commentators who are predicting a metaphorical tsunami of jobs, careers and even entire industries, being automated by recent developments in the field of AI. In some aspects, their claims are not without merit. But, as we explore in this article, AI won’t replace all human workers. In this short analysis, we delve into the heart of what it means to be a human, what it means to provide benefit to the world as part of your working career, and we provide some concrete examples of workers who won’t be automated away. At least, not in our lifetime.
In recent history, a large portion of the working class provided the physical muscle to operate the means of production in factory line work: welders, assemblers, painters, and testers. All entirely honorable professions, providing benefit to the world. In those times, human labor was the only way of creating automobiles and other mass-produced items. As the relentless development of technology has continued, so has the quality of life for many Americans. However, more and more of these tasks are becoming automated, being quickly and efficiently completed by robot spot welders, robotic assembly lines, robotic spray booths, and automated testing. With the advent of rudimentary AI, we are entering into a new era in the history of humanity, in which automation brings not only robots to displace the muscle of the working class, but also artificial intelligence, to replace the minds of knowledge workers of the working class.
Needless to say, not all workers rely on their physical strength to provide benefit to the world. Similarly, others provide only intellectual benefit, with no physical labor. So we may ask, what then, does it mean to be a human worker? This author posits: it is our unique creativity. A paint spray shop laborer may be replaced with a robotic spray booth, and a clerk managing the ordering of paint may be automated away by AI-driven supply chain software, but the creative task of choosing the exact unique color and hue of paint to convey an emotion, is solely a human affair. This worker will not be automated away, or we risk excluding that which makes us human.
As such, this author concludes that human uniqueness and creativity will be the last jobs to be automated. Take the example of creative voice talent.
Can you find a software-driven, generic, robot-like voiceover today? Yes, you can.
Is it disrupting and taking jobs? No, it is not.
It has no character or heritage. However, to press the point further, we ask, can you find a unique, creative, african american male voice? Yes, and it’s the voice of a human being, with a real story, character, and personality. This can only be a human. And it will continue to be this way, into the future. Creative workers are bringing unique benefit to society, with their creativity. Consumers and businesses alike, all want a warm and creative human tone that they can relate to.
Take the further example of civil engineering. At first, this seems like a purely mechanical and analytical skill, one that AI automation is in prime position to replace. However, let us reflect on the true purpose of civil engineering: To produce easy-to-use and easy-to-build construction projects that improve the lives of fellow humans. Holding this goal in mind suddenly shakes our confidence in the ability of AI automation to usurp an attentive and understanding civil engineer who has diligently collected years of experience in navigating the cultural norms of the citizens that inhabit and use the resulting constructed project. Where does the difficulty lay in civil engineering? In the application of creativity.
These two examples demonstrate that in this way, the very human characteristics of creativity and uniqueness defeat the impending AI Automation of the near future. It’s an exciting time to be alive, and to be human.