WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
The Robots Are Taking Over But Some Humans Are Still Needed (Season 4)
Like we were discussing previously, developments in automated robots are radically transforming the healthcare industry. With so many innovative medical technologies already here and even more on the horizon, healthcare is going to be just as revolutionized by automation as other industries we have looked at in our previous posts. Up to 80% of the work currently done by human doctors could soon be performed by automated systems. But that doesn’t mean that 80% of doctors are about to be put out of work. As with the legal profession, it just means that more routine tasks – like doing check-ups and conducting tests – are going to be automated – that will free up a doctor’s schedule to do other more interesting work.
In consequence, a lot of it will involve playing a support role – essentially acting as a human mediator between patients and the various automated systems that will diagnose their ailments. Let’s say one of those systems detects that you’re genetically predisposed to a certain disease, like Alzheimer’s or diabetes. With that knowledge, you’ll probably want to know how the disease will impact your
health. How alarmed should you be about your chances of developing it? With such questions, you’ll want a human doctor to explain things in language that’s easy to understand. In other words, doctors will still have jobs to do: counseling patients and helping them understand the diagnoses delivered by automated systems.
Similar robot-support roles will exist in other industries as well. For example, technicians will still be needed to check and repair the sensors of the industrial robots that operate the automated factories of the future. Mechanics will still be needed to fix self-driving vehicles. Human financial advisors will still be needed to answer the more unique questions that people might have about their banking services. And flesh-and-blood lawyers will probably still be desired by higher-income clients, who want (and can afford) more of a “human touch.”
Other industries won’t be so lucky, however. For example, remember those touch-screen ordering devices that are showing up in fast-food restaurants? Well, one of the main motivations behind their implementation isn’t just to cut labor costs. It turns out that given a choice between ordering from one of the devices or talking to a person behind the counter, most customers (especially younger ones) prefer the devices. They don’t want a human touch!
But in other industries, that touch will be indispensable, and these will be the industries in which the jobs of the future may flourish. Automation technologies will enable journalists to do more interesting work in more powerful ways.
As technology automates the more tedious routine tasks that people have to do in their current jobs, it will also free them up to do more interesting work in other fields besides healthcare. One of them is journalism.
Artificial intelligence, or AI, programs are already writing news stories – but they tend to be the type of stories that are rather boring for the real journalists to write. A vivid example of this comes from The Washington Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and leading the charge toward automating certain aspects of journalism. In the 2016 US elections, the newspaper used an AI program called Heliograf to cover about 500 local races.
How did it work? Well, Heliograf just took a local election story template written by some human journalists and then filled in the blanks with data that a human editor fed to it. For example, if a Democratic candidate won a certain congressional race, Heliograf would automatically insert certain paragraphs into the story template: a paragraph about the candidate’s biography, or on how her victory would affect the balance of power in Congress.
That might not sound very exciting – and that’s precisely the point. Programs like Heliograf will enable media companies to hand off more mundane journalism to the computers and let journalists concentrate on the more interesting aspects of their profession. There are long-form stories to chase, in-depth interviews to conduct and analytical articles to be written. Those are tasks that AI is far away from being able to accomplish, so humans will still be needed to do them for the foreseeable future.
Finally, AI systems will soon start augmenting journalists’ investigative powers. For example, remember the Panama Papers of 2015? It was the largest data leak in history, consisting of 11.5 million documents that detailed the dodgy financial transactions of the world’s richest companies and individuals.
That’s far too many documents for journalists to sift through, so the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) created a database with a search engine that enabled them to find the proverbial needles in the haystack. For example, they could type in a particular person’s name and find all of his or her transactions. Now the ICIJ is working on an AI-powered system that would enable them to trace connections between individuals and organizations. The system is expected to be operational sometime in 2020.
But will every job and sector be eliminated by AI? Well, some jobs are pretty much going to be safe, though they’ll be mightily transformed. Examples of these are teaching and entertainment, which we will look at in the next post.
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Have a fruitful day!
Olusola Bodunrin is a social commentator with a passion for gathering facts on social issues. He is writer, businessman, blogger, and wardrobe consultant. He is a graduate of Philosophy from the University of Ado-Ekiti. He anchors – ‘What You Should Know’ on SHEFFA.
‘What You Should Know’ is a column that offers to educate and enlighten the public on general falsehood and myths.