Have you ever wondered what we people will be doing in the distant future when artificially intelligent robots take over all our jobs? Lounging on a beach with an umbrella-filled beverage can keep humans entertained for only so long.
As it turns out, that far-off future is upon us, and there's a good chance your job is at risk. That includes white collar employees, who head out in the morning for a desk job. Whether you're a customer service agent, a secretary, a journalist, or a doctor, lawyer or architect, you might be squeezed out soon by an artificially intelligent metallic shell.
That's according to father-son authors, and Oxford University professors, Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind. In their new book, "Future of the Professions: How Technology will Transform the Work of Human Experts," they say robots will replace laborers and factory workers, as they have almost every other profession, too.
Their gloomy assessment of the workforce is that, with the advances we're already seeing with AI, it's hard to conclude anything other than this: People won't have much to do when robots start squeezing us out of our offices.
In fact, the Susskinds believe only extremely intelligent people will hold onto their jobs. The problem is, there aren't many of those super-bright people around. Plus, if it's just them and robots in an office, the not-distant-future work world doesn't sound like a fun place, at all.
The problem for humans, at least the ones who like to work, is that a lot of what office workers do is routine, and repetitive. Those two Rs are golden for robots.
If a team of lawyers and legal assistants start each case by filling out a stack of forms, the same ones every time, it's easy to imagine a robot doing that. If a teacher grades the same tests 40 or 50 times, you can imagine a robot doing that. Heck, your kids are already doing a lot of their school work online, with no teachers around. So, that's not tough to imagine.
If an architect's first step in designing a building is putting specs into a computer, why can't a robot do that? If a doctor performs the same surgery each day, a robot can ultimately learn how to do that.
In fact, robots are already helping out white collar workers, like surgeons. Which is why the Susskinds believe it's just a matter of time before robots make the leap from assisting people who are smarter than them, to just taking over their human's job.
Humans, after all, have limits on how much they can learn. For example, the Susskinds say it would take a doctor 23 hours every day to read through just 2% of the medical articles published each day. Of course, that's impossible. In contrast, computers and artificially intelligent robots may have no learning limits.
While this future work world may not sound ideal, there's an upside, according to the Susskinds. Just think about the repetitious tasks you do at work every day, maybe grading papers if you're a teacher. If a robot took that off your desk, that's not a bad thing, if you can spend your time doing something more productive, or meaningful. In fact, it may help you to become a better teacher, or lawyer or doctor, if the not-fun parts of your job were eliminated.
Still, for job security, just make sure you're one of the super-smart people who your robot bosses will want to stick around.
Note: Some of the biggest names in technology, like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, are working alongside other tech leaders to make sure robots never fully take over.