Fears that new technologies will spell the end of the human workforce have existed since the beginning of work. These fears aren’t unfounded: jobs defined by repetitive manual tasks have been consistently replaced by technology. In the short term, this has led to true workforce upheaval. In the long term, technology has proven to create more jobs — and more industries — than it’s destroyed.
However, pointing at past economic trends to dispel people’s fears about being replaced by robots has not been effective recently. That’s because this time, the conversation comes with a new twist.
That new twist is self-learning and autonomous technologies — machines that not only become smarter over time, but that can also make logic-based decisions based on their newfound knowledge, and operate with little to no human intervention. This kind of technology doesn’t only seem to pose a threat to manual jobs that can be easily automated; theoretically, it threatens jobs that require learning and decision-making — two historically human qualities.
Does this mean that machines will replace the need for humans in knowledge-based industries? Not necessarily. In many cases, I think artificial intelligence will move in to foster efficiency and work in tandem with professionals.