The Next 10 Years Of Automation and What It Might Mean For The Job Market
Regarding Automation with the perspective of law, these sorts of stories and the studies that underlie them tend to fundamentally misunderstand much of the practice of law.
There is no objective reality in law.
There are no immutable laws of physics. There is no universally accepted way of interpreting and executing code. The heart of law is fundamentally human and creative. It rests on analogies, ambiguities, imagination, and the like.
And it always will until law itself changes. For instance things like statutes, regulations, and contract terms are often intentionally left vague, ambiguous, or even contradictory. This may occur because the players couldn’t reach a more specific understanding or because someone perceives a benefit in the situation.
To be sure, there are many mechanical aspects of law that can be automated or improved with technology. Much of that low fruit has already been picked. We already have electronic legal research, form databases, fancy electronic discovery software, etc.
The people who are in bigger trouble are the assistants, secretaries, and paralegals, whose jobs tend to be far more mechanical.
Regarding my friend who is an Engineer, 95% of his job could easily be performed by a computer (hell, he said he programmed his computer to do about half of it already). I don’t see why people always jump and say engineers won’t lose their jobs to computers. They may not be the next in line, but I get the feeling they are closer to the front of it than lawyers or medics.
One of the things that people don’t realize is that even if a job isn’t 100% automation friendly (yet), doesn’t mean that that career isn’t going to cease being a viable option. To use your numbers, if a given engineer’s work can be 95% automated, then one engineer can now do the work of 20. What happens to the other 19? They’re competing against the new engineers for fewer and fewer positions. And they’re competing against Indian and Chinese Engineers brought over on “Genius Visas” who will work for less money.
AI, of the kind that’s available in your pocket will over the next 5-10 years will gain the ability to make you love it. It will offer not only tremendous utility by means of intelligent assistants, when we can start talking to them, they will be anthropomorphized, they will be our friends, and they will be there for us to talk to 24-7, and to walk us through all our personal trials and tribulations.
But at the macro level, the tech companies running these things will be gathering unfathomable amounts of data about how to manipulate us into doing pretty much whatever, with ongoing feedback loops for optimizing their capacity to best help us with what to learn, where to work, what to buy, who to date- pretty much everything, and the thing is, the more of your executive functions you offload to it, the better off you’ll be. It will have you and everyone wrapped around it’s little finger.
All the sudden the potentiality is there to completely reorganize civilization, dynamically, and at a granular level, and in the process displace much of the crude industrial age institutions that we currently take for granted- health, finance, education, business, and even government.
I think this aspect of it will be quite a bit bigger than the effects of robots or enterprise AI, to the extent that conventional dichotomies between capitalism and communism or employment and unemployment may cease meaningful at an applied level. The AIs will be able to, without bias, suss out patterns in human behavior that we can’t to ourselves, and it will be able to whisper to us, and gently influence us, in ways that no politician or teacher or shrink or Advertising whiz kid can.
I don’t hear enough talk about this. The stuffy economists, analysts, and forecasters, demographers and number crunchers aren’t factoring this part in. There is a new, and quite unfamiliar system for organizing people and resources emerging, and it’s initial effects are near term.
I was at a telecom event a week ago, and there was a female audio AI that a company was using to answer calls. We listened to a sampling of multiple calls, and while the AI was interacting with the customers it was obviously not a human, but pretty freaking good despite that fact. It was absolutely amazing to hear how the humans interacted with it/her though.
They would giddily exclaim “Oh wow! Well I was calling to check on my order, but if you had tracking information that would be great!”, to which the machine not only gave them all the information they required, but did so nearly instantaneously but with courtesy and what seemed real concern. It could detect frustration, irate levels of speech, opportunity and when asked yielded calls to real humans when asked to do so…. without arguing about it.
Every single call I heard ended with a “Thank you” that the customers gave to the AI. Some of them calling it by name, and even complimenting it saying it was one of their best customer service experiences ever. It was a robot!
And all that is still very crude compared to what’s coming up, very near term. Of course, at some point, you won’t be talking to an automated call centre directly, you’ll be talking to your own intelligent assistant, and it will navigate the telecom bureaucracy for you- it will know your gripes, and speak your language, and you won’t have to refamiliarize yourself with some new system. It may also have a certain measure of collective bargaining power, because it won’t just be you vs. the telecom, it will be an intelligent assistant representing you and 10 million others with the same problem vs. the telecom.
There’ll be one point of interface between you and pretty much everything.