Since I’ve written a book with the phrase “beat the robots” in the title, I get asked a lot whether or not robots are going to take our jobs.
It’s a common question but a bit off the mark. Robots aren’t taking our jobs (unless you’re in manufacturing or retail, in which case robots are actually taking jobs).
Instead, it’s software that is changing how we do our jobs and in some cases, creating fewer job opportunities in traditional occupations. This software is usually called automation software or RPA – Robotic Process Automation. It’s sophisticated software that mimics repetitive human tasks and does them 24/7.
But in some rarer cases, this software is completely taking jobs.
Case in point, this article: Microsoft lays off journalists to replace them with AI
Microsoft is laying off dozens of journalists and editorial workers at its Microsoft News and MSN organizations. The layoffs are part of a bigger push by Microsoft to rely on artificial intelligence to pick news and content that’s presented on MSN.com, inside Microsoft’s Edge browser, and in the company’s various Microsoft News apps. Many of the affected workers are part of Microsoft’s SANE (search, ads, News, Edge) division, and are contracted as human editors to help pick stories.
The craziest part in that article beyond the fact humans were being replaced by AI is that they had to clarify that the editors were in fact human.
In a time of global pandemic and anti-racist protests, we need good journalists who understand nuance and context more than ever. Corporate America doesn’t seem to agree.
And it’s of course, this automation trend not limited to writers. In January, the mega entertainment channel, iHeartRadio laid off hundreds of DJs and replaced them with AI:
The dominant player in U.S. radio, which owns the online music service iHeartRadio and more than 850 local stations across the United States, has called AI the muscle it needs to fend off rivals, recapture listeners and emerge from bankruptcy. The company, which now uses software to schedule music, analyze research and mix songs, plans to consolidate offices around what executives call “AI-enabled Centers of Excellence.”
(Side note: This is my plug for the best, non AI radio station out there: KEXP, whose fundraising tag line in 2018 was robot-free radio and continues to play human curated playlists)
With coronavirus accelerating automation in the workplace, I’m not optimistic this trend is going to go away.
Curious about this subject? I recommend checking out my book on how you can adapt to this changing workplace.