Will AI save the labor market?

The question in my title may sound like heresy. There is no denying that smart algorithms can fascinate and delight us. They can enable digital transformations in business, revolutionize marketing methods and foster a world of efficiency, high speed and profit. But can they be our lifeline?

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Machines AI labor jabs Norbert Biedrzycki blog

The question in my title may sound like heresy. There is no denying that smart algorithms can fascinate and delight us. They can enable digital transformations in business, revolutionize marketing methods and foster a world of efficiency, high speed and profit. But can they be our lifeline?

To show that the question in the title can be answered affirmatively, I am going to explore the way smart technologies help resolve social problems. The problems include an aging labor force gradually leaving the labor market with no one to replace them. Such precisely is the painful experience of Japan. I have chosen this example as one that is particularly glaring. As I have said in this blog on many occassions, smart technologies can bring a business to a whole new level and become its ticket into the global digital ecosphere. Such technologies can help a company compete in the demanding world of technological innovation. But, as it turns out, there is also an alternative scenario. New technologies may become our ally and help us survive the crises that creep up on us because they are given little media coverage.

Japan’s problem with aging 

Recognized as a breeding ground for robotics and artificial intelligence, Japan has a population of which one quarter is over 65 years of age. In its search for solutions, the land of cherry blossoms has adopted long-term measures. They are based on insurance policies and – something of particular interest to us – robotics, seen as an effective remedy for the mounting demographic plight. Machines are giving the Japanese hope. People in Japan have confidence that machines will be able to diffuse the current crisis that is already wreaking havoc with the labor market. According to the National Institute for Population Research, Japan’s population is set to shrink from its current 132 million to 100 million by 2049. It is not difficult to picture this rapid change cause acute labor shortages.

Robots to the rescue labor market

Japanese scientists are assessing the ability of robots to rescue their ageing country. While Europeans are known for phobic reactions to robotization, people in Japan have no such fears. They see robots as partners that help them endure the hardships of life. A hospital in Asuke has a mechanical swing lift that helps move patients from their beds and onto the toilet. Robots contribute to the famous Japanese longevity, reducing the burden on public finance. The great importance of robotics is shown by the fact that several experimental programs are currently being funded by the powerful Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. “We have found many difficulties in introducing technology to the welfare sector – cost, training, acceptance. But we have a shortage of manpower, so we need innovation. And new technologies and robotics have a lot of potential,” says Takanori Shibata, who has created a device to alleviate the pain and symptoms of depression.

Aging labor market

According to Ran Poliakine, co-founder of the Musashi AI consortium, one in three people will be elderly by 2036. This creates opportunities for the innovative use of artificial intelligence. The idea is to start delegating to machines the jobs that can be automated relatively easily. To that end, Musashi AI is developing prototypes of devices powered by artificial intelligence, such as a self-driving forklift truck that navigates autonomously and performs tasks previously reserved for humans.

The Japanese authorities are aware of the seriousness of these processes. One government-supported remedial program seeks to develop innovative medical technologies and specifically experimental regenerative medicine and cell therapy. Take a stroll around Kobe and you will easily spot a mini-city that has recently sprung up, consisting of research centers, hospitals and tech company headquarters.

Machines AI labor jabs Norbert Biedrzycki blog 1

Machines teaching us to see things differently 

In many industries, digital technology reduces demand for human labor, and increases the net gain of intelligent machine ownership, such machines being cheaper than people. According to McKinsey, the digital revolution will put nearly 400 million people out of a job by 2030. But while many occupations will vanish permanently from the employment landscape, many other jobs will be created to replace them. In addition, a careful look at the current trends reveals a much more complex picture. The case of Japan shows that, in their essence, the problems are not attributable to growing automation.Aactual root cause of the crisis is the ageing of many societies.

The Japanese example also shows that Europe perpetuates ever more powerful cognitive stereotypes. These make us view AI as a negative force. This notwithstanding, I draw inspiration from the above examples and find they show things from a whole new perspective. AI can raise hopes and become our partner. Seen in this way, robots are far from getting us fired. They will help us survive the time when societal ageing becomes the new norm.

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Works cited:

Financial Times, Robin Harding, Japan’s population decline accelerates despite record immigration. Country set to lose equivalent of a midsize city every year for foreseeable future, Link, 2019. 

Google Scholar, T. Shibata T. Mitsui K. Wada A. Touda T. Kumasaka K. Tagami K. Tanie, Mental commit robot and its application to therapy of children, Link, 2019. 

Ran Poliakine, blog, AI as a job saver? Why japan’s auto industry is embracing industry 4.0. AI could save a japanese manufacturing sector imperiled by a staggering labor crunch, Link, 2018. 

McKinsey Global Institute, James Manyika, Technology, jobs, and the future of work, Link, 2018. 

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Related articles:

– Technology 2020. Algorithms in the cloud, food from printers and microscopes in our bodies

– Learn like a machine, if not harder

– Time we talked to our machines

– Will algorithms commit war crimes?

– Machine, when will you learn to make love to me?

– Hello. Are you still a human?

– Artificial intelligence is a new electricity

– How machines think

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5 comments

  1. Check Batin

    Don’t you think there are billions of desperate people out there who didn’t get bailed out like the wealthy when they will lose their jobs?

  2. Tom Jonezz

    It’s clear that the owners of the capital are not interested in sharing the bounty of increased productivity. In fact, their actions are simply driving toward further concentration of capital.
    The rest of society is being steadily marginalized. They are taking away the earning side while leaving the consumption side. This can’t continue to work and the consumption side will have to fall away as well.
    What this means is that society will have to stop buying from the owners of modern capital, and start buying from each other, excluding the owners from the economic loop. This will have to begin as some sort of barter arrangement. It will mean a more primitive standard of living but at least most will have the ability to earn that living.
    A problem with this idea is that the owners of capital now own a lot if not most of the productive farmland as well. But perhaps with small vertical farms and permaculture, society can come to support itself independently of them in that way too.