Technology is advancing at an almost unstoppable pace, and that is leaving many people nervous. Oh, there are plenty of reasons to be excited for technological progress, but the one thing on the back of many people’s minds is what does the future look like for their jobs?
Listening to how some experts are talking, one comes away with a grim picture of the future, as robots steadily take over all our jobs. Save for a select few, the years ahead will belong to machines. These same experts point to the advances made in machine learning and artificial intelligence as reasons for their concerns. There’s no denying that the economy and job market of the future will be very different from what we see today, but does that spell doom for everyone’s jobs? Machine learning may offer extraordinary advantages, but let’s not go overboard with the hopeless outlook of losing our jobs to robots.
Fear over becoming obsolete is nothing new, of course. Any time a new piece of technology comes along, people wonder if their jobs will be threatened in some way. The same has held true with the introduction of machine learning. After all, as the name implies, machine learning involves complex algorithms allowing a computer to effectively learn over time without needing specific coding. Based on this admittedly simple definition, fear of machine learning replacing people seems to be justified; but the limits of machine learning and even artificial intelligence (AI) are more extensive than most people think. In terms of replicating human actions and behavior, these technologies still have a long way to go.
Machine learning limitations
One of the benefits of machine learning and big data analytics is the insights they can reveal from analyzing mountains of data sets. In this sense, machine learning can do much more than any human or group of humans can do. But machine learning only reveals insights. When it comes to the actual decision making process, humans are still far superior.
This has actually been the subject of some debate among businesses, whether decisions should be focused solely on data or if other factors should be taken into account. The main point is humans are still needed to ultimately make the important decisions. Their reasoning may be influenced by the insights from machine learning, but that’s all it would amount to.
This doesn’t even begin to mention human creative output that machine learning can only hope to mimic. Machine learning and artificial intelligence can certainly handle the more mundane, manual tasks that many humans have to perform today; but some experts believe this won’t make human employees expendable. Rather, it would free them up to flex their creative skills even further. Innovation is a key reason human jobs aren’t going to go away. With more free time, men and women can look into new possibilities and ideas. Consider this the “thinking outside the box” mentality, as clichéd as that phrase is. With more focus on creative tasks, people will also feel more fulfilled while doing this jobs.
There’s also the simple fact that the most effective results come when human minds are combined with machine learning. MIT researchers have been working on just such a system to help detect and prevent cyberattacks. They compared the system to other methods that involve machine learning algorithms only and human analysts only. The results showed that the hybrid was far more effective at spotting threats, detecting up to 85 percent of them. Though machine learning algorithms on their own performed better than human analysts, only when combined were they able to achieve their peak potential. Though this is only an example involving cybersecurity, we’ll likely see similar results in all sorts of fields, from cloud computing and healthcare professionals to law firms and software-defined storage vendors.
It’s natural to feel threatened by technological advances when it comes to our jobs. Technology has paved the way for incredible capabilities many never dreamed possible even a decade or two ago. Even so, it’s time to take a step back and understand that while the introduction of AI and machine learning will cause some dramatic changes within the existing job market, all technological shifts have done so before. We’re still here and we’re still needed. It’s easy to get caught up in the doom and gloom mindset; but it’s time to take a step back and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing machine learning is not going to take over our livelihoods.
Rick Delgado is a technology commentator and writer. He writes for Business.com, CTOVision.com, SmartDataCollective.com and SandHill.com. Follow him on Twitter.