The introduction of AI will undoubtedly lead to a workforce displacement and this transition has already started, from automated warehouses, chatbot customer services and AI driven marketing platforms. However, despite these evidential changes, some are mistakenly using this technological revolution as an excuse for promoting radical utopianism. Though, we do not need to fear the machines because for humanity, there is always work to be done. Yes, jobs will change but jobs will still exist. It is worth bearing in mind that waves of transformation to the economy is nothing new. In fact, the process of creative destruction is a fact of Capitalism.
The Austrian-born political economist, Joseph Alois Schumpeter states economic change occurs in long waves and identified:
• 1771 Industrial Revolution
• 1829 Steam Railways
• 1875 Steel, Electrical and Heavy Engineering
• 1908 Oil, Automobile and Mass Production
• 1971 Information and Telecommunications
These waves all brought with them four cycles of: prosperity, recession, depression, and improvement.
Ultimately, businesses rely on technology to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure a competitive edge. This trend of relying on automation is set to continue and thus AI investment is growing fast. Typically, and during the 21st century, market changes due to the introduction of technology occurred gradually. This is because it is not only technology which drives change, but also human beings leveraging that technology. Thus, it takes time for organisations to implement change. Economist Robert Fogel observes that “it took four thousand years to go from the invention of the plow to figuring out how to hitch a plow up to a horse. And it took 65 years to go from the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine to landing a man on the moon”.
However, despite the generally evolutionary changes in a free market, with such drastic change occurring there are bound to be winners and losers. Some predict as much as 90% of the work force will find themselves out of work. However, this prediction seriously overestimates the evolution of machines and underestimates human resourcefulness. It has been said that the overestimation of technology is closely connected with the underestimation of humans. Ultimately, people with determination and willingness to retrain and find new ways to add value to the economy and fulfil human need, will seize yet even more unseen opportunity. In the end, low skilled workers are never safe during market transitions and that is true irrespective of AI. It is predicted that new jobs will be created, with a forecast of 8.9 million new jobs in the U.S. by 2025.
Thus far, technology and AI have proved to increase opportunity for entrepreneurship and new job creation. From the beginnings of the internet, inspiring millions of online businesses, to the production of the smart phone, which brought about a flurry of independent app developers. Far from the bleak outlook of mass job losses and robotic domination, developments in AI, in the long run, will only create plenty of new jobs and replace those which are surplus to society’s requirements.
Ritchie Robinson - Libertarian Party Wales