Technology and market research firm Forrester Research has just released a report called “The Rise of Intelligent Agents” in which it outlines how over 6% of jobs currently performed by human beings will be replaced by robots – a loose term that encompasses all artificial intelligence, cognitive and deep learning systems that get smarter over time.

The reports specifically points to four areas where job replacement has already started, and will begin to accelerate. This is what Brian Hopkins, one of Forrester’s VPs, says:

“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.”

According to the report, in five years we could see food kiosks being operated by artificial intelligence applications, and truckers and transportation employees could be replaced by self-driving technology in its many forms.

But that’s not the full extent of what the report shows. It also talks about how Facebook and Google are hiring a significant amount of talent in artificial intelligence in the hope that they will be able to convert large amounts of data into useful and actionable insights, presumably for business users. In fact, Facebook Messenger is already letting businesses automate their customer service interactions.

It will be several years before speech engines are able to mimic a real human voice and make it sound believable, but Google’s DeepMind has already taken the first steps in that direction with the WaveNet project.

Google’s DeepMind Artificial Intelligence gets Human-like Voice

Five years is a long time where AI research is concerned. With so many deep-pocketed tech companies vying to release innovative products and at least a dozen startups finding new ways to implement AI into everyday consumer products, we could be seeing several tangible gains.

As I mentioned in the below article last month, sacrifices will have to be made in the form of job losses. But there are ways in which you can AI-proof yourself and make sure new doors of opportunity open up for you.

Will Artificial Intelligence Take Your Job? Here’s How to Fight It

This is not a doomsday scenario by any means. Every once in a while a disruptive technology comes by and jobs are lost because machines replaced them. It’s been happening ever since the Industrial Revolution that started in 1760, when humans started being replaced by machines in the manufacturing sector.

The only difference now, more than 250 years later, is that different skills are being replaced. And it’s been happening continuously throughout those two and a half centuries. It’s just that we didn’t make such a big deal out of it. Or maybe we did and then forgot about it as other things occupied our minds.

It’s called “technological unemployment“, and it has given rise to what is now called the Luddite Fallacy:

“The term “Luddite fallacy” is sometimes used to express the view that those concerned about long term technological unemployment are committing a fallacy, as they fail to account for compensation effects. People who use the term typically expect that technological progress will have no long term impact on employment levels, and eventually will raise wages for all workers, because progress helps to increase the overall wealth of society.”

Though in recent times more and more people are coming to the conclusion that the fallacy could be true, I don’t hold that view. There are always going to be enough jobs for human beings to do, even if we have to constantly move our basic skill sets higher and higher every few years.

This is what growth and development are all about, but science-fiction has literally petrified us into a state of paralysis that accompanies the fearsome question “what are we going to do?”

Humans have always found a way around their problems. We’re one of the most resilient species on the planet. We’re not going to lay down and ‘let progress come in the way of progress’, in a manner of speaking. New jobs will be created, new opportunities will open up and a new type of workforce will emerge that can work in harmony with artificial intelligence.

I don’t buy the doomsday scenario, but I will say that we need to be prepare to deal with the eventual emergence of artificial intelligence from the world of fantasy and science-fiction into the world of reality. If we don’t, we will be left behind.

The best way to react to this phenomenon is to be proactive and aware of where we are now and where we need to be in the future. Are my skills easily replaceable by a machine? What new skills can I acquire that machines won’t be able to do even 20 years from now? Can I stay within my sphere of expertise and still manage to do this? Do I need to switch jobs and get a more AI-proof one?

This is what we need to be thinking about instead of panicking and worrying about the future. Not to sound corny, but we are indeed in control of our destinies, and that’s the one thing that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. But we cannot afford to be complacent and assume that someone else will handle the problem for us. It has to be us.

I’ll close by saying this: you and I possess “natural intelligence”, which will always be far superior to artificial intelligence. We just have to make the best use of it.

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