Forget Artificial Intelligence, the ‘gig economy’ is a human automation problem

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Automating our lives is very quickly becoming the new normal. Not only do robots and machines and phones make checking the weather, turning off lights, setting alarms and the most menial of life tasks that we used to have to do ourselves automatic, let’s not forget that there’s a slew of humans for hire doing our tasks, too. It’s called the gig economy, but really, it’s a nice way of saying “human automation”.

Human Automation Should Also Be a Concern

A lot of focus on automation taking away jobs is targeted against robots and machines and there’s a lot of truth to that. Many of our daily tasks can now be accomplished by simply asking or scheduling our phones or home assistants like Alexa Echo or Google Home.

However, there’s also been a cultural shift that technology has opened up. Apps have created a gig economy and peer-to-peer crowdsourcing where we are outsourcing errands and needs that we each would take on personally. Everyday tasks that can’t be done by a machine and require a human brain are now being done by others. Now, other humans are acting as our brains, hands and feet depending on the need. Drive me to my destination using your car. Write my dissertation for me. Find my parking spot. Wait in line for me. Clean my house. Put together my Ikea furniture. Mow my lawn. Do my laundry.

Sure, hailing a taxi or finding someone to do their laundry and clean their house has been around for decades, but those used to be luxuries that were reserved for those with the resources. Now there’s companies that have completely disrupted those age-old industries, introduced new ones and dramatically cut the costs of doing so. They’ve lowered the cost of entry so much so that they’re no longer affordable just for CEOs, bankers or just monthly indulgences.

So when someone talks about how many jobs are being taken away by automation, artificial intelligence, computer science and machine leaning don’t forget that the shift in how tasks and errands are being outsourced with freelancing companies like Upwork, Taskrabbit and Uber.

These companies and platforms allow for more advanced errands to be completed without the help of next-level robots, and these are a considered a type of automation. There’s many sides to the argument about the benefits: sure, there’s more opportunity to get into the gig economy, new industries that are more accessible, more freedom to do work when you want, but the pay isn’t great if you’re not hustling. That obviously hasn’t stopped people from trying. From Entrepreneur:

As automation forces workers to find new occupations, consulting firm McKinsey & Company believes as many as 800 million adults worldwide will need to find new ways to earn a living by 2030.

Today these tasks are so much more affordable. Hell, teenagers are taking Ubers multiple times a week and hiring strangers to wait in line for them for concert tickets and the new iPhone. The point is that this the new normal. We’re slowly but surely automating our lives, so we can…. watch more TV, use our phones and browse the internet. So don’t worry about how artificial intelligence enslaving us. It already has in many ways.


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