How Can We Ensure Humans Flourish in an Age of Robots?
The pandemic has accelerated the update of automation in many areas of work. Robotic process automation, or RPA, is rapidly replacing a lot of white collar activities, while AI is starting to be used in supervisory positions.
在他的新书中，FutureProof, 9 Rules for Humans in the Age of Automation《纽约时报》的科技记者凯文·鲁斯认为，工作场所有可能因自动化而失去人性，我们需要仔细考虑我们自动化的东西。
These can range from very simple rule-based algorithms to more complicated RPA bots that take advantage of AI techniques like machine learning and computer vision.
但RPA只是目前公司内部正在进行的几种人工智能和自动化中的一种，所有这些的综合效应可能要大得多。Forty-five million workers in the U.S.could be displaced by automationby the end of the decade — up from the 37 million predicted before the pandemic.
边缘：You write about something called so-so automation, which is an interesting phrase. What do you mean by that?
鲁斯：This is a phrase that comes from two economists, Daron Acemoglu and Pascual Restrepo, who study automation and its effects on the labor market. It refers to the kinds of automation that are just barely good enough to replace human workers, but don’t generate substantial productivity gains or create dynamic new industries full of new jobs for people.
The examples they use are things like the automated call center, which — I’m sure anyone who’s called an automated call center understands — are pretty mediocre forms of automation. Most of the time, you want to talk to a human instead. These forms of automation, these automated call centers, these self-checkout machines at grocery stores and things like that get implemented because they’re cheaper than human workers, and they’re maybe marginally more efficient.
The danger that so-so automation poses is it gives us the downsides of automation, which are human displacement and job loss, without the upsides, which are substantial gains in productivity, the creation of new industries that have all the jobs that can catch people who are displaced out of the old industries.
And that might be one reason why we’re not seeing giant productivity gains, even as companies become more and more automated.
边缘：So how do we find a way through this? Are there ways that the human workforce can come out of this to the betterment of themselves and their lives?
鲁斯：Yeah, absolutely. I should say I am not anti-automation. I don’t think we should stop automating just to preserve jobs that are outdated or obsolete, but I do think we need to be careful inhowwe automate.
It matters how the gains of automation are distributed.
From history, we know that automation and technology generally have a concentrating effect on wealth — fewer people are needed to run giant institutions and corporations, so wealth tends to get concentrated upward in fewer and fewer hands. And it takes years and often quite bloody labor struggles to disperse the gains of automation more equitably among workers.
Experts are saying that we need to be moving in the other direction by teaching people how to do the uniquely human things that are going to differentiate us from AI.
So what business leaders should be focused on is providing automation that provides better conditions for workers, that frees them from mundane work and toil, and allows them to be more creative and human. In other words, automation that makes their lives and their livelihoods better, not worse.
边缘：Is this a problem that businesses have to solve, or is this an issue that needs to be taken up by governments, policy and regulation?
We’ve Seen This Movie Before
In the meantime, I would urge business leaders to be very thoughtful about this, because we’ve seen this movie before.
We know how the wave of factory automation in the 20th century ended: It produced vast inequality and labor unrest. There were strikes, there were interventions, they were work stoppages. Workers reacted very harshly to automation because they weren’t seeing the gains of automation in their paychecks or in their workplace environments.
所以我们必须非常小心,因为否则我们could be in for a lot of tumult and upheaval in the years ahead. I’m not as worried about a mass unemployment event as I am about jobs changing as a result of these technologies. There are ways in which AI and automation have actually made work more precarious.
AI As the Supervisor
A lot of AI now is serving in a supervisory function.
边缘：And what about for individuals themselves? Do you have some tips on how to survive this?
They all boil down to this idea that we need to be much more human than we currently are. For many years, we’ve been essentially training people to compete with machines by becoming machines. We told people to go and major in engineering, make yourself as productive as possible. Work as hard as you possibly can, optimize your life, squeeze all the inefficiency and waste out of it — essentially teaching people to behave like robots.
Choosing Not to Automate to Keep the Human Connection
但是我的许多专家说,我们需要谈谈to be moving in the other direction. We need to be teaching people how to do the uniquely human things that are going to differentiate us from AI. These are things that generally involve human traits like compassion and empathy and collaboration and courage and the things that are harder to automate.
I think that there is no such thing as a robot-proof job, but there are certain jobs that we can choose not to automate because we want the human connection.