WASHINGTON: Advances in artificial intelligence will soon lead to robots that are capable of nearly everything humans do, threatening tens of millions of jobs in the coming 30 years, experts warned Saturday (Sunday in Manila).
“We are approaching a time when machines will be able to outperform humans at almost any task,” said Moshe Vardi, director of the Institute for Information Technology at Rice University in Texas.
“I believe that society needs to confront this question before it is upon us: If machines are capable of doing almost any work humans can do, what will humans do?” he asked at a panel discussion on artificial intelligence at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Vardi said there will always be some need for human work in the future, but robot replacements could drastically change the landscape, with no profession safe, and men and women equally affected.
“Can the global economy adapt to greater than 50 percent unemployment?” he asked.
For example, automation and robotization have already revolutionized the industrial sector over the last 40 years, raising productivity but cutting down on employment.
Job creation in manufacturing reached its peak in the United States in 1980 and has been on the decline ever since, accompanied by stagnating wages in the middle class, said Vardi.
Today there are more than 200,000 industrial robots in the country and their number continues to rise.
Meanwhile, Bart Selman, professor of computer science at Cornell University, said that investment in artificial intelligence in the United States was by far the highest-ever in 2015, since the birth of the industry some 50 years ago.
Business giants like Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla, run by billionaire Elon Musk, are at the head of the pack.
Also, the Pentagon has requested 19 billion for developing intelligent weapons systems.
What is concerning about these new technologies is their ability to analyze data and execute complex tasks.
This raises concerns about whether humans might one day lose control of the artificial intelligence they once built, said Selman.
This has led scientists to call for the establishment of an ethical framework for the development of artificial intelligence, as well as safeguards for security in the years to come.