Will AI Replace All Jobs in the Future?

30 May 2024

Recently, while speaking via webcam at the VivaTech conference in Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk predicted recently speaking remotely via webcam at the VivaTech conference in Paris that AI may eventually replace all jobs in the future.

“If you want to do a job that’s kinda like a hobby, you can do a job,” Musk said. “But otherwise, AI and the robots will provide any goods and services that you want.”

He said that in order for this to work, a universal high income would need to be set up and implemented as people would still need to live and pay bills.

But is this really our future? And what will humans do if we don’t need to work? Does this mean AI robots will render humanity useless?

While Universal Basic Income (UBI) proposes a social welfare concept by which the government allocates a sufficient amount of money to everyone regularly to cater to basic needs, universal high-income create a utopian reality in which the government would provide an overwhelming amount of goods and services for everyone.

But if people don’t need to work for a living, our world will become a vast wasteland of purposelessness. Without jobs to give their lives meaning, people will simply become lazy and depressed.

A 1567 painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, "The Land of Cockaigne", depicts a mythical land of plenty, where people grow idle in the absence of work. The painting, which shows fat people lying on the ground being lazy or sleeping, is a clear warning of what society would be like if no one works.

Perhaps things have changed, but a study conducted a decade ago in 2014 found that people in long term unemployment suffer depression.

According to the data, Gallup found that “unemployed Americans are more than twice as likely as those with full-time jobs to say they currently have or are being treated for depression -- 12.4% vs. 5.6%, respectively.” However, the depression rate among the long-term unemployed jumps to 18.0%.

According to Gallup, “psychologists have long associated unemployment with a variety of psychological ailments, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.”

Some of the types of jobs AI would likely replace include data entry, basic customer service roles, and bookkeeping. Jobs that are repetitive

It is almost guaranteed that robots will replace humans in assembly line jobs since robots don’t need bathroom and lunch breaks.

AI and robots are expected to take over a variety of jobs in the future, particularly those involving repetitive tasks, data processing, and pattern recognition. In manufacturing and assembly, robots will handle tasks such as welding, painting, and assembly line work, as well as quality control and inspection processes.

In logistics and warehousing, AI will manage inventory, handle picking, packing, and shipping tasks, and enable autonomous delivery and transportation.

Customer service and support are already seeing chatbots and virtual assistants taking over basic customer inquiries and support tickets, along with automated phone systems. Data entry and analysis tasks, including processing large volumes of data, routine data entry, and initial data analysis and report generation, will be largely automated. In healthcare, AI will assist with diagnostic imaging analysis, robotic surgery, and medication dispensing.

Retail environments will benefit from automated checkouts, self-service kiosks, and inventory management systems, along with personalized marketing and customer recommendations. In finance, AI will handle automated trading, financial analysis, fraud detection, risk assessment, and routine administrative tasks like invoicing and payroll.

We already see the use of drones and automated machinery in agriculture for precision farming, planting, watering, and harvesting crops, as well as monitoring crop health and soil conditions.

Several companies, including Musk’s Tesla, are working on developing technology that will transform transportation with self-driving vehicles for public transport and delivery, along with traffic management and route optimization.

Maintenance and cleaning tasks in offices and public spaces will be handled by automated systems, while AI will also manage the maintenance and inspection of infrastructure.

When this happens, it will be Youngstown, USA all over again but on a much grander scale.

Up until 1977, the people of Youngstown enjoyed an average median income and a high home ownership rate thanks to the local steel manufacturing plant. The city was so successful it was even considered a model of the American dream. But when Campbell Works shuttered its doors in 1977, the city lost 50,000 jobs causing what became known as a “regional depression.”

With robots and AI threatening to take over millions of jobs, we could be looking at a future global depression.

Or perhaps, this complete change in how the world works will also create new job opportunities in fields such as AI development, robotics maintenance, and data science.

Instead of completely losing our jobs and wandering listlessly as Musk suggested we might, it is more likely we will need to adapt by acquiring new skills to thrive in an AI-driven economy.