AI critics have warned about the threat to the job market, and according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum, over five million jobs could be wiped out globally in the next five years due to the rise of robots. The jobs most at risk appear to be office or administrative positions—roles in which chatbots seemingly may excel.
But Yolanda Gil, computer science professor at University of Southern California and a member of the Association for Computing Machinery, isn't so concerned that these chatbots will be stealing jobs from the workforce. In fact, she thinks they will just work alongside humans as a secondary means of assistance.
"A.I. systems in general are so limited. One thing that people don't understand is that they have no common sense and very little context about the world that we live in," Gil said. "They won't replace or work in lieu of the real people."
The growing role of automation in the workplace is a source of anxiety to a middle class that has already lost jobs due to outsourcing and economic shifts. For years, blue collar jobs were seen as most imperiled, but an increasing number of white collar roles are now considered the crosshairs. Last year, billionaire investor Jeff Greene warned that "what globalization did to the blue-collar worker in manufacturing over 30 or 40 years, artificial intelligence ... I believe will do to the white-collar workforce in the next five to 10 years." He called the state of affairs "a national emergency."
Yet observers like USC's Gil disagree. "It's a way to add more capacity to the company without getting rid of the other jobs. The real human positions cannot be entirely replaced by these chatbots so they will eventually work together," she said.
Chatbots "will deal with the simple cases, but humans will still be forced to take care of the more complex cases," she added.
While the rise of artificial intelligence and robots could have an impact on the job market, Phil Libin says we should be focused on the positive aspects instead of the negatives.
"I think all new technologies have an element of being a little bit scary, and I think it's easier to see the downsides than the upsides because the upsides require a lot more imagination, but in every point in the past, new technology has had many more upsides than downsides," he said.