ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (AI) will be responsible for the next industrial revolution, experts in the field have claimed, as intelligent computer systems replace certain human-operated jobs.
Four computer science experts talked about how advances in AI could lead to a “hollowing out” of middle-income jobs during a panel debate hosted by ClickSoftware about the future of technology.
“It’s really important that we take AI seriously. It will lead to the fourth industrial revolution and will change the world in ways we cannot predict now,” said AI architect and author George Zarkadakis.
His mention of the “fourth industrial revolution” refers to the computerisation of the manufacturing industry.
If the first industrial revolution was the mechanisation of production using water and steam power, followed by the second which introduced mass production with the help of electric power, then the third is what we are currently experiencing: the digital revolution and the use of electronics and IT to further automate production.
The fourth industrial revolution, which is sometimes referred to as Industry 4.0, is the vision of the ‘smart factory’, where cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralised decisions.
These cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and humans in real time over the Internet of Things.
Dan O’Hara, Senior Lecturer in English, New College of the Humanities, explained that this fourth industrial revolution will not be the same kind of “hollowing out” of jobs that we saw during the last one.
“It [won’t be] manual labour replaced by automation, but it’ll be the hollowing out of middle-income jobs, medium-skilled jobs,” he said.
“The industries that will be affected the most from a replacement with automation are construction, accounts and transport. But the biggest [industry] of all, remembering this is respective to the US, is retail and sales.”
O’Hara added that many large organisations’ biggest expense is people, who already work alongside intelligent computer systems, and this area is most likely to be affected as companies look to reduce costs.
“Anything that’s working on an AI-based system is bound to be very vulnerable to the replacement by AI as it’s easily automated already,” he said.
However, while AI developments in the retail space could lead to the replacement of jobs, it is also rather promising at the same time.
Mark Bishop, professor of cognitive computing at Goldsmiths, highlighted that AI could save businesses money if it becomes smart enough to determine price variants in company spending, for example, scanning through years of an organisation’s invoice database and detecting the cheapest costs and thus saving on outgoings.
While some worry that AI will take over jobs, others have said that they will replace humans altogether.
John Lewis IT chief Paul Coby said earlier this year that the blending of AI and the IoT in the future could signal the end of civilisation as we know it.
Coby explained that the possibilities are already with us in terms of AI and that we ought to think about how “playing with the demons” could be detrimental to our future.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak added to previous comments from Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk with claims that “computers are going to take over from humans”.
Woz made his feelings on AI known during an interview with the Australian Financial Review, and agreed with Hawking and Musk that its potential to surpass humans is worrying.
“Computers are going to take over from humans, no question. Like people including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have predicted, I agree that the future is scary and very bad for people,” he said.
“Keep your nose to the ground and your eyes to the sky!”