Artificial intelligence in transport

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The advancement of technology has made life easier for people, particularly on the road. There are applications that help drivers to save their time driving as well as smart streets, which trace available parking spots. These computerized programs are helping the transport industry to become streamlined like never before. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has had a major impact in the transport industry all thanks to the continuing advancement in machine learning. Some existing and continuing smart features of AI in transport include self-driving programs, impact detection, and built in smart assistants (Tiffin & Kissling, 2007).

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Even though AI plays a major role in making tasks easier and better, a key debate that has arisen is their consequence on human-cantered employment. Artificial Intelligence is basically described as the computerized systems that seem to imitate the cognitive functions of human beings. This means that whatever jobs human beings can do, AI can do it even better. Does this therefore mean that machines will reduce the demand for human employment and as a result cause unemployment? Two conflicting views can be gotten in response to this. There are some people who believe that AI is just like other technologies such as mechanical engineering, which will lead to the expansion of the economy and increased employment opportunities. Others claim that AI in transport will definitely lead to a reduction of jobs in the transport industry.

This paper aims to examine the probable effects of Artificial Intelligence on the unemployment of human beings (technological unemployment). It will entail a general discussion, exhaustive explanations as well as reasoned arguments that will show whether Artificial Intelligence will cause unemployment for human beings. It will also include examples of places and countries in which the use of Artificial Intelligence has been seen to have an impact on the employment of people.

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Firstly, we will review some of the arguments that sustain the view that Artificial Intelligence has and will not lead to unemployment. According to James Albus in one of his latest interviews, he states, “there is no historical evidence that rapid productivity growth leads to the loss of jobs. In fact, this is quite the contrary. In general, industries that use the most efficient production techniques grow and prosper, and hire more workers. Markets for their products expand and they diversify into new product lines” (Albus, 1983).

According to Bairoch (1973), another related argument can be based on the recent studies conducted in Third World countries. It is imperative to note that the state of unemployment is far worse in developing nations than in those countries that are industrialized. This can be seen in Third World countries where Artificial Intelligence in transport is much less invasive, and yet the rate of unemployment is still very acute (Bairoch, 1973). Therefore, Artificial Intelligence in transport can definitely not be the major reason of unemployment.

Even though automation, including Artificial Intelligence is progressing rapidly, it will provide a task where the normal offices and factories will be required to become converted into automatic offices and factories. Albus (1983) explains that the building of these automatic offices and factories is an enormous task, and that will indeed necessitate the employment of people who will be hired for several generations to come (Albus, 1983).

Some critics have argued that the advancement of Artificial Intelligence in the transport industry will create jobs that will have need of only low-skilled manual labour. In one of the recent studies by Levin and Rumberger of Stanford, they claim that many of the new jobs that will be created will not be in the occupations that require high technology, nor will they necessitate the workers to upgrade their skills even in the existing high technology jobs. On the contrary, the creation of low skilled jobs will immensely surpass the augmentation of the high technology jobs. In addition to this, the large numbers of high technology industries together with their products will far more likely reduce the skill requirements for jobs in the transport industry as well as in the economy of the United States. This will in turn lead to the displacement of jobs and the downgrading of the skills required for nearly all the jobs that will be created. This will definitely undercut employment in general, particularly that of the skilled personnel (Levin & Rumberger, 1983)

There are many people who will argue that Artificial Intelligence will result to the unemployment of human beings because technology is advancing each and every day and societies all over the globe are incorporating the technological advancements such as the transport industry (Barnett, 2017). Just a couple of months ago, famous entrepreneur Elton Musk declared that AI-powered systems as well as automation technologies were definitely going to replace most of the human jobs all around the world. He also recommended that the only way in which countries would be able to deal with the after effects of this revolution is by adapting to worldwide ‘basic income programs’ .

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Each and every successive cycle of business experiences what are known as ‘troughs’, where the graph of unemployment goes upward. During recession, many people are laid off and lose their jobs. However, there are many people among this group of jobless people who blame their plight on the automated devices as well as robots. There are some economists who suggest that some countries are by now in the preliminary stages of a grave era in which significant unemployment is to be expected due to Artificial Intelligence. An economic consultant, Doctor Gail Garfield Schwartz recently stated, “Perhaps as much as 20 per cent or more of the work force will be out of work in a generation (Neikirk, 1982).

According to Wassily Leontief, a Nobel prize winner economist states that this is true because “….we are beginning a gradual process whereby over the next 30-40 years many people will be displaced, creating massive problems of unemployment and dislocation…….. In the last century, there was an analogous problem with horses. They became unnecessary with the advent of tractors, automobiles, and trucks…. So what happened to horses will happen to people, unless the government can redistribute the fruits of the new technology” (Leontief, 1983).

Another factor that indicates towards the reduction of human labour force in the transport industry due to Artificial Intelligence is the designation of ‘white collar’ work. In America, it is predicted that more than half of the workers in the transport industry have been laid off, such as the truck drivers. The ones who have been left behind are the ones who are involved in the ‘information-processing’ occupations. This includes the managerial functions that comprise of reporting, decision-making, fact gathering, supervision as well as communicating. The clerks are also included as they deal with paper handling (Neikirk, 1982). However, there are ‘expert systems’ that are being developed in the Artificial Intelligence research laboratories that will be able to perform this ‘white collar’ work, therefore leading to a radical decline in the call for human intervention.

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My opinion in this case is that the critics who maintain that Artificial Intelligence will not cause unemployment to human beings have failed to take into consideration a number of very significant differences between the Artificial Intelligence and preceding technologies. Through economic reasoning, I believe that the entire amount of human labour used to create goods and services will deteriorate remarkably due to the unique quality of Artificial Intelligence. Based on Duchin (1983), he suggests that the Artificial Intelligence technology will permit to even more automation in the future, thereby increasing the rate of unemployment.

The world is changing a lot, and with this, our styles, times and values revolutionize. People are looking for comfort plus accessibility in the transport industry. Of course, Artificial Intelligence has played an imperative role in ensuring that smart amenities are being included in the latest auto models. In the course of these advancements, a direct impact will be felt in the transport and logistics industry in terms of employment. This is because the amount of motor vehicles on the road will be reduced so as to help combat traffic congestion. This further means that drivers such as the yellow cab drivers as well as courier drivers will be substituted by the self-driving cars along with car-pools (Barnett, 2017).

On a recent tour to Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg articulated that his generation will be forced to cope with the “tens of millions” jobs that will be substituted by the self-driving cars plus trucks. According to a 2017 report from the International Transport Forum, there are 6.4 million skilled drivers in the United States of America and Europe. The report projected that a total of 4.4 million of these skilled drivers would be replaced by 2030 with the self-driving trucks. The advancement of Artificial Intelligence in transport has led to many people agreeing that “this is no industrial revolution redux, it is an Automation Armageddon” (Firebrand Talent Ignition, 2017).

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This year, early in March, a PWC report estimated that in the UK, 10 million jobs were at danger of being substituted by Artificial Intelligence within the next 15 years. A report from the McKinsey Global Institute also predicted that by the time we reach the year 2025, Artificial Intelligence will be capable of doing the jobs of 140 million skilled and knowledgeable workers (Firebrand Talent Ignition, 2017). Through unemployment, people will lose their incomes. This is a natural fear, which I believe can be dissolved if people would be capable of getting a hold of income in various other ways. For example, the self-driving cars and trucks should have emergency drivers in case the Artificial Intelligence technology is not completely reliable.

The best way that would really help in lowering the rates of technological unemployment in the transport industry is by trying to slow down or stop the progress of Artificial Intelligence. This will in turn postpone or put a stop to unemployment of workers. Slowing down or stopping the progress of Artificial Intelligence can be done by placing obstacles in the course. Placing obstacles can be done by using the “Luddite approach”, which can be accomplished by either making use of or else abetting technology in order to combat unemployment (Ramnarine & Endeley, 2008). On the other hand, this approach is very unfair to human beings as it convicts us to keep on working hard when in fact technology can take care of that. Luckily, this approach would without doubt be unsuccessful as there is no group or government that has adequate authoritarian power to put a stop to technical progress. Even if there was a way in which technology could be temporarily slowed down in a country, its alien competitors would outrace it and therefore lead to unemployment. This would be a double tragedy, as the country would be faced with unemployment and poverty as well.

As Artificial Intelligence takes over more and more human-cantered work in the transport industry, we need to take steps that will guarantee that humans become unemployed in a way that is slow and non disruptive. New and innovative approaches should be considered, such as job-sharing.

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  1. Albus, J., 1983. The Robot Revolution: An Interview with James Albus. Communicataons of the ACM, March.
  2. Barnett. J, 2017. Will AI Revolution Lead to Mass Unemployment? Business.com/Technology/ Retrieved from https://www.business.com/articles/john-barnett-artificial-intelligence-job-market/
  3. Bairoch, P., 1973. Urban unemployment in developing countries. Geneva, Internat. Labour Off Duchin, F., 1983. Private Communication.
  4. Firebrand Talent Ignition, (2017). THE IMPACT OF AI ON JOBS IS LARGER THAN YOU THINK. Retrieved from http://blog.firebrandtalent.com/2017/06/the-impact-of-ai-on-jobs-is-larger-than-you-think/
  5. Leontief, W., 1983. The New Age that’s Coming is Already Here. Bottom Lane/Personal. Vol 4:8 p. 1 April. Draft Final Report. New York University: Institute for Economic Analysis September.
  6. Levin, H., M., & Rumberger, R. W., 1983. The Educational Implications of High Technology. Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Government Stanford University: School of Education, February
  7. Neikirk, W., 1982. Recovery Could Be A Jobless One. Chicago Tribune.
  8. Ramnarine, D., & Endeley, R-R., 2008. Information and communication technologies for the public service: a small states focus. London, Commonwealth Secretariat
  9. Tiffin, J., & Kissling, C.C., 2007. Transport communications: understanding global networks enabling transport services. London, Kogan Page. Retrieved from http://www.books24*7.com/marc.asp?bookid=21327
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