Pulling from a passage from the new book, The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity, Gigaom says that industry experts might be looking at the “technology is going to take my job” issue all wrong.
Gigaom says that there exists a common assumption that low-skilled jobs will be the first up for automation by technology and AI: “Generally speaking, when scoring jobs for how likely they are to be replaced by automation, the lower the wage a job pays, the higher the chance it will be automated. The inference usually drawn from this phenomenon is that a low-wage job is a low-skill job.”
However, this isn’t always the case; for example, a robot would have a harder time completing the tasks a waiter does on a shift than it would interpreting the data on CT scans, like radiologists do. “Waiters’ jobs pay less than radiologists’ jobs not because they require fewer skills, but because the skills needed to be a waiter are widely available, whereas comparatively few people have the uncommon ability to interpret CT scans,” Gigaom says. As a result, low-wage earners won’t face the brunt of the effects of automation; automation will touch all aspects of the wage spectrum.
Still, there are fears that automation will destroy job availability for less-skilled workers. Gigaom says employers and employees alike shouldn’t worry – the natural flow of progress will move things along, including to the top of the job ladder: “A college biology professor becomes the new geneticist; a high-school biology teacher takes the college job; a substitute elementary teacher takes the high school job; and the unemployed warehouse worker becomes a substitute teacher… When a new job is created at the top, everyone gets a promotion.”
The real question and focus here, Gigaom says, is “can everyone do a job a little harder than the one they currently do?” If decision makers, employers and employees agree that this is true, new jobs can be created at the top, and “everyone gets a chance to move up a rung on the ladder of success.”