The robots are coming. That’s what we’ve been hearing for generations, with the assumption that artificial intelligence would soon arrive to replace human labor, especially the physical sort. First outsourcing, then automation, would further erode blue collar jobs in the developed world.
In some ways, the machine revolution is already halfway complete. We don’t have elevator operators or telephone operators anymore. Many of us check ourselves out at grocery stores or rental car kiosks or airport newsstands. People can push their own buttons, and the folks who did those jobs have other gigs now, including working with technology to produce or oversee production of exponentially more output than was previously possible. As time has progressed, so has the speed of automated systems and the range of their possible application, so that our fears have grown beyond labor displacement in certain sectors to include wholesale displacement of physical human work writ large.
With the shift toward rapid software development, cloud computing, and the ability of machines to build learning models based on vast troves of images and text, we are realizing that A.I. might be coming much more rapidly for the jobs we didn’t think were as easily replicable: artists, screenwriters, and even software developers themselves. The very people who pontificate about the impact of artificial intelligence might have their pontification taken over by artificial intelligence. Robotic poetic justice?