No one will need programmers shortly… Really? (Part I)

Despite the considerable national, historical, and geographical diversity of humankind, all people worldwide share the same evolutionary background. Humans are highly predictive having a common fate. Thanks to this “overarching design”, people have been able to create the culture. Our ability to transfer knowledge and skills from generation to generation through shared practices shaped the so-called human capital in terms of employment. Even the notorious human factor, which is often seen as a vulnerability of many modern occupations, could be accepted as an advantage when the issue is addressed from another angle. Being aware of human nature, we can anticipate what mistakes people can do potentially.


Computer capital vs human capital

The contemporary development of robotization offers a different type of employment. The AI-powered computer capital is entering into a confrontation with the human capital. The higher productivity and efficiency, as well as an elimination of human mistakes, are the reasons for applying automation wherever possible. Creating robotics people never doubt their ability to control machines. Numerous software developers are striving to saturate robotics with new knowledge in order to shift the “less efficient and more capricious” humans from many positions in manufacturing, transportation, and service delivery. At the same time, programmers think they have the upper hand. Viewing themselves as demiurges, they feel immune against their IT creatures. Is such overconfidence justified? Aren’t they digging a deeper hole when training machine-learning systems to how to learn? Don’t they worry about their employment while developing software capable of developing software?


Productivity instead of jobs

John Maynard Keynes foresaw the unemployment caused by the technological development decades ago. His prediction was based on the idea that the growing labor efficiency would leave much fewer people employed. The logical reason for the technological development comes to getting more and faster done with fewer efforts and costs. Therefore, modernization and human labor are mutually exclusive. Besides, as Eric Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee state in their book “The Second Machine Age”, the other different factors affect the contemporary production instead of physical assets. They identify four intangible assets such as intellectual property, organizational capital, user-generated content, and human capital.

Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne from Oxford Martin School & Faculty of Philosophy in the UK predict in their report The Future of Employment that 47 percent of the contemporary occupations that are potentially automatable will be substituted with robotics in a decade or two. As automation technologies are evolving rapidly, the trend of computerization is to continue. The enhanced technological dexterity of machines will keep eating human jobs in almost all segments of the global economy.


Who is to escape SkyNET?

As against the vast majority of employment experts who used to add yet another profession at risk, Brynjolfsson and McAfee represent the areas of human endeavor that will remain resilient to robotization in the near term.

1. Manual/headwork.

Lucky people: cooks, gardeners, repairmen, carpenters, dentists, and home health aides. In short, those ones, whose professions require the advanced sensorimotor skills, complex patterns’ recognition, ideation and profound communicating capabilities.

Reasoning: The so-called Moravec’s Paradox outlined by AI researchers in the 1980s suggests that many large-frame tasks that humans consider simple and natural are beyond the capabilities of machines. A robot needs about 25 minutes and more than 2000 moves just to fold a towel.

2. Creative

Lucky people: singers, composers, poets, writers, artists, handcrafters etc. In short, all those people who can leverage their imaginative power to create a unique stuff or performance.

Reasoning: As automation is feasible only in mass production, there is no any economical reason to develop robotics capable of producing single-piece artworks or performing a show. Although some AI-driven systems are trying to mimic artists and composers, the result of their creative experiments remains pretty awkward.

3. Interpersonal

Lucky people: nurses, kindergarten teachers, home help aides, salespeople, managers, social officers etc. In short, all the ones who are engaged in motivating, nurturing, caring and comforting people.

Reasoning: Machines will hardly be good at the activities requiring human empathy. This is where the “gut feeling” achieved in the course of evolution distinguishes humans from machines most dramatically.


But what about developers?

As we can see, programmers are unavailable among the lucky people invulnerable to substitution by robots. And that’s not for nothing. In contrast to mechanical engineers of the early XX century who created machines unable to substitute the creators, the contemporary programming engineers (at least a large proportion of them) are developing technologies aimed at replicating themselves. While 3D printers printing the other 3D printers remain the matter of the future, the software creating another software comes to reality.

In the second part of the article, Indeema will disclose how developers dig their own grave.  

Don’t miss, to be continued...

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