This new survey hopes to settle, once and for all, when human labour’s expiration date will be
Increasingly, the introduction of new technologies in the workplace is causing concern over employees lacking the necessary skills to manage them – if not outright getting replaced by them.
More and more, we see firms looking to reskill their employees and governments try to keep their citizens employed with attempts to throttle job automation. It seems almost inevitable that machines will take over man as the backbone of our labour force. It’s no longer a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’.
In the hopes of answering that question, Katja Grace of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute consulted with global experts on artificial intelligence to find out, conclusively, when human labour’s expiration date will be. The answers of Grace’s 1,634 respondents are as shocking as they are varied.
According to the MIT Technology Review, these experts predict that AI will outperform humans within the next decade in tasks such as translating languages (by 2024), writing high school essays (by 2026), and driving trucks (by 2027).
But machines will have to wait a while before they replace humans completely. Retail spaces will still likely employ humans until 2031; human authors can expect to stay on the bestseller lists until 2049; and robots won’t be performing surgery until 2053.
But these experts have been wrong before. In 2015, AI experts predicted that machines would be able to beat humans at Go – known to be the world’s most complex strategy game– by 2027. A subsidiary of Google developed an artificial intelligence that did it just earlier this year, suggesting these findings may even be too optimistic.
That said, the survey found a 50% chance that AI will overtake humans in pretty much every capacity in about 45 years.
“Forty years is an important number when humans make predictions because it is the length of most people’s working lives,” the MIT Technology Review stated. “So any predicted change that is further away than that means the change will happen beyond the working lifetime of everyone who is working today.”
Whatever type of artificial intelligence these experts predict will take over the labour force is a technology none of them have ever seen before. This gives some reason to be skeptical.
More interestingly, however, is that the 45-year figure is an average of all respondents. Splitting the results up by the origins of the experts, Grace’s team found that North American researchers predict AI to outperform humans in 74 years. Asian experts put that number at around 30 years.
With human employees already working alongside robots in various Asian firms today, it’s no wonder the East sees artificial intelligence in the labour force as more pressing an issue.
It will still be some time before machines are expected to replace humans in the workforce. But that transition is already happening – and quicker in some sectors than others. Organisations across industries should already be asking themselves: Are we ready for the AI takeover?