Robots assisted by artificial intelligence may eliminate 6 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2021, according to a new analysis by Forrester.
“Solutions powered by AI/cognitive technology will displace jobs, with the biggest impact felt in transportation, logistics, customer service and consumer services,” read part of the analyst firm’s report, as quoted by The Guardian.
Many of these industries already seem on the verge of technological disruption. Otto, a young startup run by engineers from Google’s autonomous-vehicle project (and recently acquired by Uber for $670 million), is testing out self-driving trucks. If all goes according to plan, humans won’t entirely cede control of their big rigs to software; rather, the technology will take over at periodic intervals so that drivers can catch some shut-eye. The end result: trucks that drive 24 hours a day, effectively doubling their capabilities.
It’s also not impossible to imagine a future in which trucks lack drivers altogether. “We’re going to continue our testing with urgency but also work with regulators and other bodies to show we can have a truck drive itself more safely than a truck driver, all of the time,” Lior Ron, one of Otto’s co-founders, recently told Backchannel.
In customer service, Facebook and other firms are exploring the potential of chatbots (a.k.a. bots) to automate a number of functions left to human beings, such as troubleshooting. Although David Marcus, head of Facebook Messenger, recently admitted onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco that early bots were “really overhyped,” there are signs that developers are very serious about building software that will replace a variety of customer-service functions within the context of a messaging app.
For years, analysts and pundits have argued that technology will ultimately create more net jobs than it eliminates. They believe that, at least for the next several years, human beings will still need to oversee and direct the behaviors of robots and A.I. platforms. But that might come as cold comfort to anyone whose job ends up eliminated by software; presumably those people will need to retrain in order to meet the modified demands of the economy.