It’s all over. We’re doomed. There’s nothing left to do but dig a bunker in the ground, cash in your life savings on canned goods, LifeStraws, and Tolstoy novels, and hope to die in peace rather than under the cold metal boot of a merciless robotic Terminator. At least, that’s what artificial intelligence expert after artificial intelligence expert keeps suggesting. It seems like each week there’s some new apocalyptic, end-is-nigh prediction about how robots, AI, and self-driving vehicles will soon make humankind obsolete. Do they have a point? Let’s hope not. This week’s doomsday prediction comes from Dr. Subhash Kak, an artificial intelligence and computing expert from Oklahoma State University. According to Kak, one-third of humanity will be unemployed in just a few short years thanks to self-driving vehicles and other similar technologies. Is it time to rage against the machines for the sake of humankind?
Kak made the predictions exclusively to British tabloid The Daily Star, so take them for what you will. Kak says that one third of all employed people in any developed economy work in transportation, meaning those people will likely soon find themselves unemployed as autonomous vehicles take the wheel for us. It won’t stop there, though. According to Kak, nearly all jobs on Earth will fall victim to technology in the next coming decades:
Why would professors like me be needed if the lectures of the best instructor in the world are recorded and made available on the Internet? Department stores are closing because they can’t compete with Amazon where the orders are filled by robots in the warehouse. The beginnings of the dystopia are already there. There will be massive unemployment. People want to be useful and work provides meaning, and so the world will sink into despair.
Yikes. While that sounds bad, we can take some comfort in the fact that similar fears and apocalyptic predictions have been made each time radical new technologies appear. In the late 18th century, weavers revolted when the first mechanical knitting machines appeared in factories. When automobiles first appeared, many people predicted that the car would bring about an end to human civilization as we know it. Are the fears of AI and self-driving vehicles unfounded? Are humans merely afraid of change? Or do we need to start pushing for universal income before it’s too late and we all find ourselves unemployed?