Data center
Computers in a data center. Photo via Pixabay

With ChatGPT there is no doubt we are barreling into unknown territory. 

How artificial intelligence will replace humans with machines, how industry will likely use AI or what the cost will be, or whether regulation will dictate AI’s future are mysteries.

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It is also not clear if humans will be retrained, if retraining is possible or what we will do in the way of compensation, a sort of minimum distribution, if we cannot. 

We do believe AI will be used, experts say, yet we do not know the potentially paralyzing effects such robotics will have on the workplace or how we will be able to use technology effectively in our cities to maximize affordability and accessibility while minimizing the adverse effects of using AI inventions. 

The increase in productivity achieved by technology is too good to ignore. The bad news is that as Pew Research Center believes, we will see tremendous job loss and with “vast increases in income inequality, masses of people who are effectively unemployable, and breakdowns in social order.” 

For me as an educator, there is an urgent need for people with new thinking skills to capture the new jobs because of advancing technology and the threat is escalating much beyond our comprehension. 

There seems no doubt that jobs will be lost, and some new ones created, but the new jobs we are just beginning to define — like “Data Scientist” or “Blockchain Developer” — are going to require advanced learning, new skills, and a different understanding of the world and the economy. According to the Wall Street Journal, “While a six-figure starting salary might be common for someone coming straight out of a doctoral program, data scientists with just two years’ experience can earn between $200,000 and $300,000 a year, according to recruiters.” 

Creating pathways to these new jobs will, however, not be nearly enough. As the Conference Board, a New York-based “think tank” for major corporate interests, and Americans for the Arts discovered after surveying 155 U.S. business executives and 89 school superintendents and school leaders, the number one skill needed was “creativity.”  

“Innovation is crucial to competition, and creativity is integral to innovation,” the two organizations reported. “Overwhelmingly, both the superintendents who educate future workers and the employers who hire them agree that creativity is increasingly important in U.S. workplaces, yet there is a gap between understanding this truth and putting it into meaningful practice.”

Being creative is very much in discussion, and reforming the school curriculum is paramount to ensure that people have the skills needed to work in the new robotic economy. Many economists also believe that a universal basic income will somehow encourage people to be volunteers and seek out ways to help existing nonprofits. 

The key may be staying well ahead of the progress of the robots. That is what Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, seems to be saying: that unless we develop our skills on the right side of our brain to be more empathetic, intuitive, to see forests and trees and thus be more creative, we will not outpace the robot. Machines will always be better, faster and cheaper at any tasks that are merely repetitive. 

Those who have pondered the two hemispheres of the brain believe that it is the right brain that makes us human” And the human will, perhaps always, be in charge. This should mean the robot, productive as it is, is not a match for the human brain. 

Catesby Holmes, Global Affairs Editor of the “Conversation,” an academic journal, writes that “today, robots and smart systems are servants that work in the background, vacuuming carpets or turning lights on and off. Or they’re machines that have taken over repetitive human jobs from assembly-line workers and bank tellers. But the technologies are getting good enough that machines will be able to work alongside people as teammates much as human-dog teams handle tasks like hunting and bomb detection.”

Without a doubt, we will need machines more than ever to help us navigate and make sense of a fast-changing world. But ultimately, humans will continue to be essential to the process as well, setting new constructs that enable greater machine learning and applying machine-gleaned insights to drive new discoveries. 

 There is no time to waste.

John M. Eger is professor emeritus of the School of Journalism and Media Studies at San Diego State University.