NOTE: This is a follow-on to my prior post, as well as a response to most scientists, engineers and technologists, who believe that the machines will only be advantageous to humanity.
In 2010, the Federal Government bailed-out GM, Chrysler and their parts suppliers, saving 1.5 million jobs. That action enabled the employees to stay current on their mortgages, pay taxes, and continue contributing to the economy by spending money in national and local stores. Also, let’s not forget the added impact of auto dealership closures and lay-offs, finance companies, insurance companies, etc.
Several states have already authorized self-driving, or autonomous, cars and trucks for usage on their highways, with other states sure to follow. The impact of human drivers being replaced by computers, as they gain acceptance, will eventually have an even greater impact on our economy than the failure of two major employers.
Remember, also, that similar forms of machines are replacing workers in numerous industries throughout the economy. But, let’s look at some potential numbers for just the automotive industry.
There are currently 3.5 million truck drivers on the road, as well as another 5.0 million support staff. For trucking companies, it would be more cost-effective to replace drivers with computers, since the machines can drive 24 hours per day, and they do not receive pay or benefits. Thus the direct impact of autonomous trucks would be approximately six times as great as if two of the Big Three were not bailed-out by the Federal Government.
Now, let’s look at personally owned automobiles and small trucks. American households own, on average 2.1 autos, which spend 95% of the time sitting in garages or parked in driveways, or on the street. As people become more comfortable riding in self-driving cars, entrepreneurial companies will offer year-to-year plans, enabling members to use an App to call for a ride when needed.
Consumers would pocket the difference, between enrolling in a plan, and the expense of personal auto ownership—the purchase price, and maintenance and insurance expenses. It has been projected that family auto ownership would plummet, from 2.1 per household, to 1.2. Over a gradual period, say five or ten years, think of the potential impact on the automotive industry. Oh, and don’t forget the taxi drivers, and their support staffs, who would probably be laid-off, as well.
While scientists, engineers and technologists debate over the pros and cons—of whether artificial intelligence might be beneficial or harmful to mankind—at some indeterminate time it the future, AI is already here! The technicians are missing the point, at least for the present! The overall disruption of the American labor market could be even worse than during The Great Recession (4Q07-1Q09)!
Machines have already taken over many low and high-paying jobs throughout the American labor market, and their march is accelerating at an ever quickening pace. The artificial intelligence community needs to set the potential outcomes of the future aside, and work with community groups to respond to any near-term risks, both to society and the economy. Forget the long-term, will we be ready for tomorrow, next month, next year?
NOTE: The linked Pew Research Report describes how many Americans view Labor Market Disruption.
ALSO: In today’s (South Florida) Sun-Sentinel, there was an article about Auto Nation, the nation’s largest auto retailer, forming a partnership with Google’s autonomous driving subsidiary, Waymo Corp. In time, they expect to offer as-needed access to a fleet of self-driving autos. Also, as car buyers become more comfortable with autonomous vehicles, Auto Nation will offer them in its showrooms. Auto Nation’s stock skyrocketed, partially on the news.