Nobody should feign surprise that robots are taking over. A new report by market research firm Forrrester predicts that robots will terminate 6 percent of jobs in the United States by 2021, jobs that were previously held by flesh and blood workers. To expect anything less would be naive, as collectively we're the fools who put this all in motion.
Think about it. We used our highly evolved brains (comparatively speaking) to create these awesome and complex machines, then we gave them artificial intelligence. We even glorified their capabilities in Hollywood films, a practice that dates back to when flicks were broadcast in black and white. And to top it off, we arrogantly celebrated the culmination of our robotic achievements by teasing and humiliating one of the most advanced machines ever built with a hockey stick. The arrogance!
"By 2021 a disruptive tidal wave will begin. Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service and consumer services,” Forrester says.
The inevitable is coming. We're seeing the beginnings of AI taking on daily tasks with digital assistants such as Siri and Cortana, and Amazon's Alexa can even order you a pizza while firing up a playlist of romantic tunes and dimming the lights to set the tone. But over the next several years, AI will get better at making decisions in increasingly complex situations, and that will be the turning point where they'll have us acting like a bunch of South Park characters proclaiming, "They took 'er jobs!"
The robotic revolution is coming. Some would argue it's already in motion. AI systems have proven they're smarter than us when IBM's Watson went on Jeopardy and trounced the best players to have ever participated on the game show, and now they're making us reliant on them—"Hey Siri, wake me up at 6:30 AM!" According to Forrester, at least 45 percent of U.S. online adults say they use at least one digital assistant for this, that, and the other thing.
And then there's the whole self-driving vehicle movement. It's not hard to envision a future when AI systems control the roadways, too, driving big rigs filled with goods. By that time, they'll have displaced taxi drivers as well. Then what?
"There is a lot of correlation between unemployment and drug use," Andy Stern, former president of the Service Employees International Union, told The Guardian. "Clearly over time, particularly in urban settings, the lack of employment is tinder for lighting a fire of social unrest."
That's our future, folks. Robots will run the world, taking our jobs and reducing us to errand runners in exchange for drugs.