Opinion

Rapidly-advancing technology endangers future generations

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Design by Emily Dulohery.

The rapid advancement of technology is both exciting and daunting. Technological improvements have led to breakthroughs in the medical field and enabled access to countless resources with the tap of a screen. However, many hardworking Americans fear that advanced technology will soon put them out of a job.

Former President Barack Obama recently gave a speech addressing how rapid technological change is altering manufacturing industries with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, making it harder for governments and businesses to keep up. Almost 40 percent of U.S. jobs are at risk for automation within 15 years, according to a March 2017 analysis from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. .

Large tech companies must lead the charge to find innovative ways to adapt the workforce to this new technology and halt the destruction of jobs.

Human oversight and interaction will remain a key role in areas like customer service, based on current projections by the Sloan Review at MIT. Many new jobs will emerge in the next 20 years — jobs that look nothing like those that exist today. These categories will include titles like “trainers,” “explainers” and “sustainers.”

“Trainers,” or human workers, will teach AI systems how to perform, including how to detect the complexities of human communication. Workers at Yahoo Inc. are teaching its language processing system that human speech is not always literal. This dilemma prompted Yahoo engineers to develop an algorithm that can detect up to 80 percent of sarcasm on social media, improving its system’s accuracy and creating jobs.

Explainers will provide clarity on these new mechanisms. They will help bridge the gap between the technology programmers and business leaders by explaining the inner workings of intricate algorithms to nontechnical professionals.

Sustainers will ensure that AI systems are operating as designed. These workers will monitor systems for signs of bias and address these unintended results with the appropriate urgency.

Amazon is another company leading the way with this new technology. Its warehouses, which employ more than 125,000 people, are being outfitted with the latest robots, but not at the expense of human jobs, according to the New York Times. The employees’ duties are being altered to fit this new age of robotics. Previously, employees had to lift and stack heavy bins onto conveyor belts. Now, a giant mechanical arm performs the physically-taxing job as they supervise, troubleshoot and ensure the arm has bins to load, making human work more efficient and mentally engaging.

These accommodations Amazon and Yahoo Inc. are making are crucial to the survival of jobs for future generations. An economy driven by massive technological change is quite dangerous if not transitioned properly. It’s imperative that we continue to find new ways to advance and adjust to technology, without endangering the job market in the process.

Nicole Macias is a sophomore majoring in English.

October 30, 2017

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