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Musings on the Skilled Trades and the Future of Work - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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March 4th, 2011

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03:14 am - Musings on the Skilled Trades and the Future of Work
teaotter enjoys watching Holmes on Homes, a show about fixing home renovations gone wrong. amberite & I regularly watch it with her. In addition to instilling a perhaps useful dread of just how badly a home renovation can go, this show also got me thinking about the future of work.

Computers are already starting to drive cars, they can win at Jeopardy, and will be taking over increasing amounts of customer service and office work within the next 5-10 years. So, we are facing a world where factory work and any office and customer service work that doesn't have to be done face-to-face will be outsourced or automated, likely first outsourced and later automated. This made me wonder what jobs will be open for humans – obviously academic work, creative work, much engineering (although perhaps less than before if evolutionary algorithms replace a significant portion of R&D work. However, watching that show helped me understand that humans will still be doing skilled trades like construction, electrical work, and plumbing until full AIs come along.

Construction, and especially both renovation and repair work on homes are all sufficiently complex and variable environments that I seriously doubt that robots that lack human-level intelligence will be able to do as well as a human. We'll definitely see both small sensory robots climbing under houses and through pipes in no more than 5-7 years and we may see small flying robots like these fetching tools and providing similar assistance, but I suspect the actual thought and work will continue to be done mostly by humans. Similar complex hands-on professions from chef to doctor will also remain in human hands for at least the next few decades.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

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Date:March 5th, 2011 06:55 am (UTC)
Humans may well be doing that work after full AI comes along. Sure, you *could* design an AI that is a house-repair maximizer, but I'm not sure that's smart (it could start trying to do things to create more repairs for itself in the future or similar problematic scenarios) and anything that didn't consider that to be part of its utility function would probably not want to bother with such matters unless it was absolutely necessary.

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